SURFACE WEAPONS - PORTSMOUTH
1971 - 1975
After I had been introduced to the senior members of the drawing office by their manager, on my first morning at ASWE, Portsdown, I was then taken to the System Engineering Group. On the way to the manager, he explained that the post I had filled had been a Senior Experimental Officer's post. Due to the fact that the four sections in this group were staffed by a total of four Professional and Technology Officers, PTO's, the Director had this post transferred to a PTO 1 post, after the staff side had submitted their case to the Director.
The officer in charge, to whom I would be answerable, was a professional engineer, Mr W A C Davis, who was carrying out a three year stint of duty whilst seconded from HQ in Bath. Mr Lambert, on entering the office of the Head of my new post, introduced me to Mr Davis, and then left.
Very smartly dressed, in a dark suit with neatly parted hair, my new boss greeted me with a smile. After enquiring about my background and finding that I had not been involved with ships or weapons, his smile disappeared. Then he remarked, "Well, this is the area where one learns all about both, being the System Engineering Group." He could easily have frightened the life out of me, if he so wished, for these sections, I learned later, dealt with all naval ships and their weaponry, together with new equipment and ships on the drawing board.
I was introduced to each of the section leaders and was then informed that there was no available office for me at present, and that I would have to reside in Mr Erskine's section office for the time being. He then asked this section leader to take me to the desk that had been set aside for me. It was also explained that my predecessor was on sick leave and was not expected to return.
It took me a little time to recover, as I sat at this desk, alongside a junior member of this section, engaged on through-deck cruisers and warships, which were later to be involved with the Falklands battle. I do not easily quit what I am asked to do, but in this case, I must admit, some thoughts like this were going through my head. It was known that most persons coming into this post would have only partial technical knowledge of all the aspects of the work carried out by these sections. In my case, it was not even partial.
Did my career manager not say that I was to be involved with policy matters, and do not cabinet Ministers become in charge of departments, such as the Chancellor of the Exchequer, without being qualified?
This was a time to make my own policy as regards carrying out my assignment. I decided that staff come first and that I would circulate round to each draughtsman on a regular basis. Secondly, I would acquaint myself with ship building whenever a staff member had to visit a ship yard. Thirdly, I would read up on standards related to installation weapons and all other equipment, such as radar, communication and electronic warfare would have to be bottom priority.
I had been given an organisation chart of my area of work, this identified who did what and where. Not a lot had changed in the geography of the group's accommodation since my work study days here. It was gratifying to see the workplace modules we had recommended in use wherever I went to visit draughtsmen.
Since it appears that I was left to paddle my own canoe, I decided to use the chart to plan my course in visiting the staff, starting with the section where I was based.
When I spoke to this cheerful broad-Irish spoken section leader, Jimmy Erskine, he said, "I am glad you have decided to spend some time with me, for there are certain matters you should be aware of."
I replied, "Well, we will have a session immediately after lunch."
After dinner in the site canteen, I was able to hear from Jimmy that he had today heard that he had failed his promotion board for a PTO 2 grade, a post he already held in a temporary capacity. Further, he was training outside contractors, Vosper Thorneycroft, to do this work. In my situation, all I could do was try and cheer him up by saying, "Looks to me Jimmy, that the promotion board got it all wrong. Do not let this get you down, I am sure that next time you will get through."
From what I had observed in the office, while I had been sitting there he lacked a bit of polish in the presentation of his comments. This was an area in which I knew I could help him before he attended his next board. I then remarked, "God willing, that if you and I are here before the next board, I will give you a mock interview." Later this did take place.
Jimmy, at this time, was virtually the section leader, handling the type 42 warships and aircraft carriers, known as 'Through-Deck Cruisers' for political reasons. No aircraft carriers had been approved by the Government at that time. His knowledge of deck layout and positioning of aerials, flags and masts was invaluable and could only be learnt on the job. I think that our chat helped him to come to terms with his disappointment, and I was fortunate to have kept a very loyal and competent section leader.
I had a few personal matters to attend to, such as my digs, which I had not yet sorted out. Thanks to the Personnel Section, an address was found for me in Stubbington Avenue, North End, Portsmouth. One of my first duties on arriving at ASWE was to report to the security officer to obtain my pass and to read security regulations, one of these was that staff were required to lock up all correspondence before leaving the site. I was allocated a drawer in Jimmy's steel cabinet. Fortunately, I returned to my desk after leaving the Personnel Office to find correspondence in my tray. I felt that these papers could wait until the morrow. I had had enough for the day, so I made a visit to my boss, Mr W A C Davis, on my way out.
The accommodation in Stubbington Avenue proved very convenient for both work and Southsea front. The boarding house was a large terraced house, being very spacious and had an impressive frontage. The middle-aged landlady invited me in and showed me my bedroom and toilets, and apologised for the hurried meal she had prepared at this short notice. The landlady, called Alice, told me that in days gone by, the foremen of the dockyard, wearing their bowler hats took pride in living down this Avenue. My priority, after I had sorted myself out at the digs, was to 'phone Gladys and have a long drink.
In my 'phone conversation, I told Gladys that the job could be fine, once I had mastered it and that I looked forward to being back at the weekend. There was no mention of Harry by her. Maybe, like me, she did not want to worry the other half with bad news.
I took a long sea parade walk past the castle and then finally settled myself with a pint of bitter in the South Parade Pier bar. As I strolled along here, I kept asking myself, why did they throw me into this group, when there were other resident PTO 1's with some knowledge of the work done here. It did not help, when I recalled a conversation I had overheard about my predecessor who was on sick leave with a mental breakdown. Strange, that this had also occurred when I was given the production controller's job at the Ever Ready Company.
I cheered myself up with the thought that I had provided a shoulder to cry on, maybe tomorrow the other shoulder would be used. Neither these last thoughts, nor my drink helped me to get to sleep that night.
The following morning, I dealt with the correspondence marked for my attention. This meant a discussion with the section leader, Ron Collie, in charge of the submarine vessels and supporting services. My first impression of this chubby leader was that he could have taken Charlie Drake's place in a comedy for looks. In all my talks and those to follow with my section leader, the question was asked, had I served my apprenticeship in the dockyard? The answer was evaded, my saying I was trained in industry.
It was comforting to feel that Ron, like Jimmy, was anxious to co-operate with me, particularly in dealing with technical correspondence. As with Jimmy, Ron was pleased to learn that I intended to visit all staff on a routine basis. He thought that his staff would welcome this as they felt forgotten, away from the main drawing office. It was mentioned that one of his staff would be visiting Vickers, Barrow, to obtain measure-ments inside a submarine, would I like to go with him? I replied to Ron, "Thank you for suggesting it, this will be one of my main objects to familiarise myself on the ship aspect of your work."
I returned to my desk and replied to this letter and took it to my boss. He was pleased to have received a reply so soon. He then referred to a technical meeting to be held shortly on the through deck cruiser. He would require me to attend with him, where I should meet all project weapon leaders involved with the surface weapon fit. Again, I thought he was encouraging me in my new environment, when he was pleased that I was keen to visit a ship yard. Although completely out of my depth, I felt that there were life-savers about, to rescue me if necessary.
I visited the main drawing office, to obtain standards on weapon installation. Arthur Lambert, the manager, spotted me and called me into his office. We had a chat and were joined by Dickie Dore, his assistant. Our discussions switched to sport, where I received information on the Civil Service Club, Copnor. Now I knew that I would survive, with life-savers and sportsmen also around.
I met the section leader of small ships dealing with alterations and additions for the running fleet. Eventually, we found some common ground when he revealed he was a scoutmaster. He was some time at Bath, and again I was able to relate on the office he had served in whilst I was on work study there. I was quite sure that we would get on with each other.
Before the week was out, I had a session with the fourth and final section leader, Mr Millwall, dealing with the Auxiliary Fleet, supporting the fleet at sea. He too, was training a contract engineer from Vickers to do their work. Some of these vessels, referred to as RFA's, were huge in size with very comfortable accommodation, as I was to find out with my policy of visiting ships whenever the opportunity availed itself. They were a sort of go-between a pleasure ship and a naval vessel, I think I could serve happily on a RFA.
I had lost my sleep pattern with concerning myself about the total involvement of work in this area. Previously, I had had some control over my destiny. All my work, individually and section-wise had been on creative work, giving satisfaction when achieving the required end product. Now, I had no positive input technically and could only be answerable for the efforts of others in the section. I, however, was learning more about the work of the Establishment than I would do any other way. My plan for the next week was to visit members of each section.
On the Friday night on my way home, it seemed as if I had been away for months and I likened it to one of my army home leaves. My dear beloved, with her concerns at home, did not allow this to prevent a joyful return. It was as if a child had returned to his mother and had been lifted into her arms. Nature is a wonderful thing, that the creator devised.
That night, after making love and falling to sleep for the first time, since I had been away, caused me to release all my stresses. It was this homecoming that kept me going during the six months I was in digs in Portsmouth.
I informed the vicar that, in view of my new post at Portsdown, taking effect from the 4th October, this year, I had no alternative but to resign from my church commitments, such as the PCC and the Friends of St John's Committee. Gladys handed over to me all the correspondence addressed to me during the previous week. One letter, received from the vicar, read as follows:-
"Dear Alan, I very much regret your disappearance from the PCC and feel sure that all the other members of the Council will feel the same. You have done fine work for the Church and I know you will be greatly missed. Perhaps among your other attractive attributes, those of sincerity, reliability and a sense of gaiety stand out; it has been (and is) a joy to have such qualities in our midst.
It is good to know that you will help with the Friends of St Johns for the time being. In passing, I do want to say how glad I am about Andrew's success both in his exams and in getting a job. This must give his parents much satisfaction.
Lastly, may I congratulate you on your promotion and wish you all good things in the new job.
May God help and bless your family each day.
Sincerely yours, Gerald Carns."
I was very moved when reading this letter, and never realised that my services were held in such esteem. Ted Edwards, on sidesman duty, when I attended Sunday morning service that weekend, asked if I would accept an invitation to a farewell social occasion in my honour, before we moved away to live in the Portsmouth area? I replied, "Ted, how could I say no, after this very kind letter I have received from the vicar?"
After the service, I had a chat with several church members who were keen to know how I was getting on. I was very cagey with my replies, just in case I was given a return ticket. Andrew, who was with me, also had a chat with the younger members of the congregation, who were also asking him about his first job. He too, seemed very cautious about his work.
When in the car on the way home, I questioned Andrew on the progress he was making in his heavy electrical engineering apprenticeship with the London Underground Transport. He confessed to me that he was not very happy with it, and had now made his mind up to go to University at Bath, if a place could be found for him.
I went quiet, for this inability to stay at a job was too familiar in the family. I did not know how to reply for the best. This apprenticeship was one of only a few awarded each year, it seemed to be too soon to throw this training opportunity away. It was Andrew's life, so I left it to him to make his own decisions affecting his career.
Andrew did stay at this job until he received acceptance by Bath University in computer science, starting in Autumn 1972. This news came through in early Spring, when he found himself a new job with Surrey County Council, in the education department.
In this work, of an administrative nature, connected with classroom space at schools, he found this of greater interest compared to what he had been doing. Maybe he did not like getting his hands dirty!
This weekend had reached a crisis point at home, due to Harry's increasing personality disorder, coupled with his disturbed mental state. Gladys, who had found happiness in her work at Bentalls, was unable to continue having to look after both Harry and Andrew, who were living at home. Her patience had given way to her suppressed feelings when Harry continued to act in an anti-social manner. His valium pills, which had been prescribed for him, had a slowing-down effect and resulted in him staying in bed, and he would then want his breakfast at dinner time.
He was very abusive to both of us, using phrases such as, "You rat-bag, you should never have got married!" There were times when he refused to sit at the same table, and would call me a 'big fat pig'!
This state had been building up and it was a miracle that we had a trouble free holiday in Switzerland, and he said he had enjoyed his holiday. It was when he continued to have the Kew statue on his brain, following the holiday, that his condition worsened and he was given his cards as a porter at Teddington Hospital. Later, he wrote and claimed that they were all laughing at him in the hospital.
We sent for his mental welfare officer, Mr Ferron, but he failed to turn up. He 'phoned, telling us that he knew all about Harry's state and instructed Harry to visit his new doctor, Dr Broom, for a further sicknote, but was aware that Harry was in need of hospital treatment.
During the year, we received a phone call from the police that Harry had to be rescued from the River Thames near Eel Pie Island, Twickenham, and would we take him home. We were now very concerned about the effects of Harry's behaviour on Andrew, this being initially the cause of Andrew, when smaller, asking to be sent to a boarding school.
This weekend, I had to calm Harry and Gladys, which became a three-way contest. Harry had become very abusive to his mother when she demanded him to get out of bed to have his dinner. Gladys then started on me, for allowing him to talk like that to her. This happened after we had returned from Church and knew that Andrew could hear what was going on.
Being a very sensible son, he did not get involved, but disappeared in his bedroom. I took Harry into his bedroom and made him realise how upset his mother was. He was told that if he did not come down, dressed, before we had finished eating, then he would get no dinner. Gladys, who had prepared Sunday dinner, said that this would be the last if I did not do something quick about Harry.
What was so annoying about the whole situation was that no medical guidance was given to us after Harry had been discharged each time from hospital. There did not appear to be any rehabilitation before being sent home.
It was obvious that life to Harry was a nightmare and that he only had his nearest ones to vent his feelings on. I wrote a letter to Mr Ferron, stating that we needed support while Harry was sick at home, as to how to manage him, particularly as I am working away each week. Further, I wrote, he had shown by not staying at his last two jobs, Jeannings and Meacock of one week's duration and Wolf and Hollanders of four weeks' duration, that he is not fit enough for work.
My journey back on Monday gave me too much time to dwell on the domestic scene I had left behind, coupled with the formidable task that awaited me. It is said that two concerns are better than one, since while you are thinking about one you are having a respite from the other.
I started the week at ASWE reading through naval weapon standards, NWS. Jimmy, passing my desk, said, "I should not spend too much time trying to swallow the contents in case you land inside St James' Hospital."
I responded, "Thank you for your concern for my well-being, but I must learn the naval equipment language in order that I can talk to you fellows." Jimmy did a grin, and immediately replied, "We will soon teach you that if you remain in this office, as well as other matters you should not hear about this place!" The name of this hospital, at first I did not register, I was shortly after told that this was the local mental treatment centre. Later Harry was to spend many years in and out of there.
Using my chart listing the staff, I continued to see a member of each section daily.
I returned to my digs at night in Stubbington Avenue, where my evening meal was ready for me. I asked the landlady during our conversation, if she could recommend a good solicitor. She had no hesitation in recommending Lyndhurst Groves, Elm Grove, Southsea. This resulted in seeing Mr Groves on the Wednesday to deal with the exchange of house contracts for Wigan Crescent, Bedhampton.
I 'phoned home in the evening and Gladys told me that Harry had gone off and mentioned about Bath and Bristol. I could tell she was still very tensed up, not knowing what to expect from Harry. I tried to change the subject, to Andrew, and learnt that he had just revealed to his mother his intention to leave his job and go to university. This did not seem to help, so I told her that I was already missing her and could not get back home soon enough.
My loss of sleep continued although I did walking exercise at night along the sea front to physically tire myself out before going to bed. I could not come to terms with not making an input to the draughtsman's design on the board. At Teddington, I had influenced most of the work in progress. Sternfield, the Austrian Jew with vast amounts of engineering experience, welcomed me to discuss his new schemes and make an input. This was made possible because all the work was novel. Here at Portsdown, at the interface, it was necessary to be knowledgeable about both the weapon being fitted, and the ship involved.
Until know, I had survived without needing doctor's attention, in fact I had been exceptionally fortunate, never being away from school or work on health grounds. I had no alternative but to seek doctor's remedy, which would be the sleeping tablet, my first ever, should they be prescribed.
On the 'phone, when I next spoke to Gladys, I was informed that Harry did not return the same day as he left to go to Bristol, not going any further than London. Ferron had made contact, which I would learn details of on my return at the weekend.
With a staff of 40, it was inevitable that there would be a person of special interest. In my tour round the sections, I met Alan Robinson, the well-known league soccer referee. I found him a very quiet and unassuming person, who, in addition to this excellent calling, was also very well qualified in his profession, being an Associate Member of Naval Architecture. It must have been interesting working alongside him to hear his comments the following Monday after a league game.
Things were much calmer at home, it seemed that Harry's little escape to London had released some of his frustration. Ferron, who had spoken to both Harry and his Mum on the 'phone, said he would visit them. Also, that Harry should see his doctor to ensure that he is supplied with adequate sedatives. In the meantime, he would contact the hospital at Horton regarding re-admission. Harry was upset, because Ferron had failed to see him and we also had a need to have support, especially Gladys!
An appointment with Dr Ryle had been made by Gladys for me to see him about obtaining sleeping tablets. When I saw the doctor and told him that I had never taken pills and was loath to do so, he said to me, "Why not take advantage of modern science if it cures and relieves pain?"
said, "Well, it looks that the time has come for me to avail myself of the products of modern science. I suppose if everyone waited until they were 56 before taking pills, there would be no pharmaceutical industry!" Nature had its own remedy at home, so I delayed taking the pills until I returned to my place of work.
During the week, I had been instructed by my boss to attend a standards meeting to represent our group. Fortunately, through talking bowls with the officer in charge of the standards section, Bert Luff, I had someone to hold my hand. ASWE undertook the preparation and the publication of technical journals, NWS standards being included in this printing. I think the only benefit I gained by attending this meeting, was familiarising myself with the day to day problems encountered with this subject and meeting other staff who had an involvement with standards.
One amusing remark made by a member of this meeting remained with me for all time. A naval officer explained a difficulty he had created and sought advice on how to remedy it. He received the following reply: "Seems to me you have climbed onto a high wall and don't know how to get off it." There was much laughter in the room! Perhaps that taught me a lesson to be careful what you say at meetings, as there are people about who like to score points at your expense.
A member of Jimmy's section had arranged to visit Swan Hunters shipbuilders yard at Wallsend, Newcastle, to discuss aspects of a refit requirement, thus providing me with an opportunity to visit a shipbuilding yard. On this visit, we travelled by train and I gained useful information from David Baxter on the naval shipbuilding procedures.
A naval officer is appointed to take over a new ship prior to its build. It is his duty to look after the interest of the navy and his men during all stages of the build. A resident naval overseer is appointed, through whom all contacts with the builder must go, as would be the case when we entered the yard today.
We stayed at the Grosvenor Hotel, Newcastle, where my thoughts strayed to the war days, when I was on an NCO course, being drilled by a Scots Guard Sergeant Major at Sandy Lane Army Barracks. We visited the drawing office, first calling on the overseer, who made contact with this section to confirm that our visit was expected. Returning back on the train, I thanked David for putting me wise on naval procedures in contractors' shipyards.
Back home for another weekend, I was greeted with "Harry has disappeared since Monday" from Gladys, in a very distressed state. "When I asked where he was going, he said, 'probably Bath'. The only money he could have was his sick benefit."
I replied, "He has gone away before, but he has always returned somehow, when his money runs out, as he will do in this case." Later in the evening, he returned with stories of Bath and had called at the Fasts and had a meal there.
I did not want a scene and was thankful that he had returned without having to inform the police. When he had eaten I had words with him in his bedroom not to clear off without us being informed where he would be staying. I think he was too tired and dirty, having not shaved since he left home, to create trouble.
I had taken a few days home leave, which allowed me to contact Ferron for some positive action to get help for Harry. This he did, with Harry being taken into Horton Hospital in early November.
My church held its Christmas fair on Saturday 20th November, which we attended and felt myself very much like a fish out of water, not having any involvement. I met members of the PCC and learned that the proposed new building had not progressed further. Many questions were asked regarding my new job, to which I gave indifferent answers.
A visit to Vickers, Barrow, had been arranged for me to travel with Ron Collie to clear some outstanding equipment fit problems for a submarine, now in their shipyard. We stayed at a house in Bridgegate Avenue, Barrow, where the landlady's husband worked at the shipyard.
I was interested to know how a shipbuilding firm could have started on the outskirts of the Lake District. The answer given was that there was coalmining in the area, followed by steel making, thus providing the basic material for this trade.
Again, we contacted the naval overseer, who directed us to the staff involved with the final installation of the equipment we fitted. I noted, while at Barrow in Furness, that here was a district called Vickerstown. I was not able to find out, was the firm Vickers named after the town, or was it vice-versa?
On our return home, Ron confided with me that the drawing office management had their own promotion pecking order and those in our group got left out. It was for me to ensure that this does not take place in future. I thanked Ron for showing me the ropes at Barrow and for this information on the dealings regarding promotion candidates by the line manager.
When I arrived home that weekend, Harry had been discharged at Horton Hospital and was awaiting being picked up from Epsom. When I saw the charge nurse of his ward, I was told he had been given 'Modicate' injections and was much more rational. He had been given valium tablets and would need to see the doctor for further supplies and to obtain a sick note. A letter from the hospital to see Dr Broom was being sent. Harry said little on the way home and went straight to his bedroom on entering the house.
The week prior to Christmas week was very special. Our future house at Wigan Crescent was now secure, for contracts had been exchanged and the price fixed at £7,500. The same day, Gladys, who was with me at the solicitors in Elm Grove, stayed to attend the drawing office annual Christmas dance on Clarence Pier.
My boss, Mr W A C Davis asked if we would sit at their table. We felt very honoured to receive this invitation and it was a boost for my morale. This was a very enjoyable evening, especially as WACA, as my boss was known, hinted that he was impressed with my efforts so far. This remark did indeed make the evening, however, I could not over-celebrate, I would be returning home the same evening for my Christmas leave.
We had our usual church carol candle light service and I was brought up to date with church matters by Ted Edwards and others. Thankfully, Harry was now resigned to a spell of sick leave and was much more stable.
I had continued to play hockey with my NPL team on most Saturday afternoons, and whilst resident at Portsmouth I used my evening time to seek out hockey clubs, not forgetting my main pastime, bridge. When I approached members of hockey clubs about joining, I was informed that they had a waiting list. This could have been true, on the other hand, they may have thought that their club was not that short.
However, I was more fortunate in locating Southsea Community Centre, where I joined and found a very good social atmosphere. This was the first centre here that I had discovered, and was very impressed with the scope of activities provided.
In early Spring, Andrew took up his new job at the Surrey County Council, Kingston, and seemed quite happy with his work in the education department. He had many friends in the Crusaders movement at their Kingston centre.
Gladys was busy preparing curtains for our future home, having obtained window measurements from Stan Byrnes. I was determined that she should refurnish the house to her liking to keep her morale up in these very trying situations that arise with Harry's mental state. Occasionally, I drove past our future home and each time I counted our blessings in finding such a quiet and pleasant grass verged Crescent.
During March I visited the estate agent in Teddington and discussed the new selling price, taking into account the escalating prices in the property market. Snellers suggested that we try for £12,500, which I thought was a bit optimistic. Being close to the Thames Television Studios, we had several television artistes looking round the house, one of whom was Richard Beckinsale, partnering Ronnie Barker in 'Porridge'.
As the sale had not taken place two weeks prior to June 8th, the date for taking over the Wigan Crescent house, £1,000 was taken off the selling price. Within two days, a lady passed by in her car, stopped, and she added another £500 to prevent gazumping.
On the Monday prior to our move on Thursday, Harry had left for the YMCA, Guildford. He returned on Monday morning by taxi and said they knew all about him and he had had his photo taken. People in Guildford were all hostile to him. He remained until we moved.
We pulled up our roots from Teddington on Thursday, with Harry remaining in the shed, and then later disappearing for two hours. He returned and said that the whole country had photographed him, due to Kennings Motors.
We had a fine day for this move, Harry decided to sit at the back of the furniture van. The house was clean on our arrival. Andrew decided to have the small bedroom and left the large back bedroom to Harry, leaving the front bedroom, whether we liked it or not, to us.
The refurnishing exercise was left to the lady of the house. New carpets were top of the agenda, for starters. In this case, I did not have to pay too much, as removal expenses were paid for by the Government.
Gladys had a whale of a time as she did her rounds in Havant shopping area, with a budget for the purchase of household furnishings and fittings. Harry, who went along with her on one of shopping expeditions, returned and said, "They all bowed their heads and one spat at me. I think I am dying of Senile Narcosis."
My route to work over Portsdown Hill, a matter of ten minutes' drive, allowed me to come home for dinner, still using my Beetle car. Again, I had managed to live near my place of work, with no need for meals at work and no traffic jams to encounter, with the flyover bridge crossing the London A3.
It took a little while to discover the features of this area. Bedhampton, a suburb of Havant, was noted for producing two crops a year from its fertile soil. The Belmont estate was built on land owned by the Lord of the Belmont Manor. The last owner was Lord Wigan, who our Crescent is named after. In the estate, there is a drive called Queen Anne's Drive. It was claimed that Queen Anne did once sleep in Belmont Manor. There is also a 'Roman Way' in this estate where Roman artefacts were discovered when building this estate after the war. A Roman road passed this way, linking with Portchester Castle from Chichester. During war time, there was an encampment here, used by the navy, where Nissen huts were provided for accommodation.
It is possible to walk through Old Bedhampton and reach the coast from the estate in 15 minutes. En route is St Thomas' Church, built in the 12th century, and further towards the coast, a Mill House may be seen on the east side of the coastal track. It was here that John Keats completed his poem, "The Eve of St Agnes." He also spent his last days in England there, in 1820.
More important to Gladys, was that a regular bus service could be boarded alongside the estate, taking ten minutes into Havant and thirty minutes to Portsmouth. In many ways, this spot was ideal, both for public bus or rail transport, in that it was on the direct route to London by train, or Portsmouth.
By road, there was the A3 London to Portsmouth and the A27 coastal road. Likewise, one had the sea on your doorstep, as well as Hampshire green undulating countryside, equally as close.
We discovered an elderly aunt. A member on my late father's side, Bertram Edward Rayment had died without making a will. Three fifths share had been divided between the remaining residuary legatees predeceased the Testator. My sister, Edith, shared with me a small sum of around £100 each, which my father would have received, had he been alive. Arising from the accounts of this will, there were only two surviving sisters, we discovered, out of the family of ten.
We managed to locate the address of one of these. This was Mrs Marie Louise Turney, who lived at 18 Victoria Road, Aylesbury, and was the baby in arms of her mother in their family group photograph, taken more than 100 years ago. We arranged to visit her during the summer holiday period.
This became a very memorable trip, learning about my father's early years and to meet this elderly Auntie Lou for the first time. She told me that my father followed the Salvation Army band and played a harmonica in their garden shed. She did not have a kind word for her father, and said he left all the work of their hat making business to her mother. Gladys suggested that we had straightened out, that she stayed with us at Bedhampton.
On the return journey home, the car would have left the road, had there been no embankment alongside the road. I had momentarily fallen off to sleep, I had still not yet found my sleep pattern in spite of taking sleeping pills. On the other hand, this could have been caused by the drowsiness effects of taking these pills.
Once again, Andrew had found a dream place to continue his studies. Not only was his university at my favourite city, Bath, but it was also located in the rural setting of Combe Down. So he had the best of both worlds, quietness to do his studies and a beautiful city on hand to get lost in, away from computer science.
Equally important, he had close friends, the Fasts, to call on whenever he wished.
With direct trains between both Brighton and Portsmouth to Bath, Andrew was yet again fortunate to have train transport from Havant to Bath available.
On Monday 12th June, when I returned home from work, I found Harry lying on his bed half asleep. His wardrobe door had been removed. By the side of his bed were traces of a drinking session having taken place - empty glass and beer bottles. He was up all night in his bedroom. I avoided a scene the next morning, by not asking why he removed the wardrobe door.
I made contact with Havant Day Centre, an outstation of St James' Hospital, to make an appointment with the psychiatrist. Arrangements were made for Harry to attend this day centre. After spending two days there, he claimed the following took place:
Did some woodwork, said the nurses wanted to show his p----. On Monday he would recite Shakespeare, to prove himself. They were all hostile to him.
He continued to attend this day centre, being injected with 'Modicate' while there, making him more amenable. On Friday, 21st July, I spoke to the doctor at Havant Day Centre, who admitted he had not seen Harry recently. The staff nurse confirmed that Harry was in need of treatment and had no doubt he was a schizophrenic. He had full doses of 'Modicate' injections. Did we want him put in hospital? The staff nurse had noted Harry chased the girls and was spurned - it was the manner and not the fact that he was doing this that had drawn his attention.
The resident doctor mentioned they could give him the standard treatments, ie, electric shock treatment, EST, Stelazeen, Modicate. The final doctor's remarks were that he would write to his family doctor. In the meantime, if we had trouble, then he should be ordered into hospital.
The following day, he asked for money and wanted to use the car to see a friend. He left at 6 pm and returned shortly. No friend - possibly a girl at the centre, would see him. He appeared in a depressed state. Later, he removed his bedroom door knobs and told us that he is allowed to lock his door. His mother got mad with him, which I sorted out without serious impact. Harry told his mother that she was a 'ratbag'.
My section leader, Jimmy Erskine, had been notified to attend another promotion interview. When I first arrived at ASWE, I promised to give him a mock promotion interview, on being told that he had not been successful at his recent board. Jimmy was only too happy for me to do this, and now I too, have myself in dock should I fail to ask him searching questions to prove his metal. This was an opportunity to utilise the training I received when I attended a Civil Service training course for interview board members. I had mentioned to him previously that whatever response is given in reply to a question, make sure that you can provide further information, should there be a follow-up question.
On return from his interview, Jimmy came to thank me for the questions I had asked him, it was as if I had been looking into a crystal ball. It was no surprise to Jimmy that he learnt that not only had he been successful, but he had come top in his class for Admiralty Weapons Group. This now removed the 'temporary acting' in front of his PTO 2 grade.
A tragedy had occurred with the wife of Arthur Lambert, who swallowed a bone when eating fish and chips, which Arthur regularly took home on a Friday night. This caused her to choke to death. Her loss meant so much to him that shortly afterwards he took his own life.
On the 'grapevine' I heard that his successor had been appointed from the Chief Inspectorate of Naval Ordnance Office, Bath. This information was soon followed by the news that is was Stan Cadman, who had been in charge of the section where Mr Rose had refused at first to use our workplace module. Remembering the acrimonious remark I made to him for siding with his staff and not management, I feared what was in store for myself in the future.
I had my own office by the time Stan Cadman took up his appointment at this Establishment. I also had a new boss, a Maltese, who was of the same grade as W A C Davis, an engineer. We had a good relationship and could talk freely. I remember he told me he was glad to be in England. Where he came from, the priests came round to find out how soon you are expecting a baby once you have married. They would expect them to come round again to find out when the second child was expected, thus increasing their flock.
The day for the new manager had arrived, and I waited for the moment of our meeting with a little apprehension. The knock on the door came quicker than expected, for it was only mid-morning and I assumed he would have to travel from Bath. Our meeting was brief. After shaking hands, he asked, "Alan, would you be my deputy?"
Needless, I was taken aback with this request on two counts. Firstly, that he should want me alongside him after our encounter at Bath. My second count was that I should be back in my old discipline of the drawing office. My response was immediate, "Thank you for this invitation to join you, I should be delighted to be your assistant. It was very thoughtful for you to choose me from this section, which many regarded as the 'Cinderella' of the main drawing office." With this reply, he smiled, and said, "See you later." I thought this was a very brave decision of Stan, for there were a number of my grade with a great deal more knowledge of the drawing office and Establishment procedures.
From the first day of my arrival, and being introduced to the Secretary, Mrs Sawyer, of the drawing office, I was always contacted by her whenever there were staff matters that I should know about. With a large drawing office staff of more than 200, one felt that you were just a number in the eyes of its management. Molly's pleasant voice, always with a smile when keeping me informed of what was going on, did reassure me that I was very much one of their family. This relationship was of great help when I first arrived here.
The information that I was to be recalled to the main office was indeed welcomed and good news to take home to Gladys. It seemed that my natural pattern of sleep would not return while I was in this area of work, lacking the experience in the many aspects of its specialised equipment.
That Autumn term of 1972, I enrolled to two new activities at Wakefords School, as a result of their brochure which was pushed through our letter box. This school, situated only a matter of ten minutes drive away, had its own sports hall and swimming pool. I signed on for a course to pass the Royal Lifesaving Society Bronze Medallion. One never knows how useful this training could be, living by the sea.
I also enrolled on the badminton course for beginners. We were very lucky to have an ex-service instructor, who had been the coach for the RAF badminton team. I had found that these instructors of the services were artists in their own subject, when demonstrating, as was the Sergeant on the Barrack Square at Marske-by-the-Sea.
In the bridge world, I had become a regular member of the Southsea Community Centre, taking part in the duplicate bridge on Monday nights.
Although I had not succeeded in finding a hockey club in the local area, I did become a member of the Petersfield Club, playing on Sunday mornings in goal. This was because they were without a goalie. Not a very good position for a 57 year old person, especially if not wearing a mask.
On leaving Teddington, I vowed that, should I attend another church, I would be a member of the congregation, and not get involved with church activities, especially those concerned with money raising events. Within two weeks of having attended a local Sunday morning service, I was approached at home and asked if I would become a sidesman. I thanked this church member, who was a neighbour, for his kind invitation, but declined, as I was still new in the area. Sadly, I virtually took fright, and I was convinced one cannot become just a member of a congregation without being involved with its continuing money- raising functions.
Although the population of Bedhampton was a matter of a few thousand, the church was very active. One of its outstanding events was its annual jumble sale that raised over £1,000 each time it was held. This ancient St Thomas' Church, dating back to the 12th century, sited in Old Bedhampton alongside Bidbury Mead Recreational Ground, acquired the land on which the war time casualty operating theatre stood, in the Belmont estate. Here was built, during the immediate post- war years, the Parish Sanctuary of St Nicholas, with money raised with three years' free loans from Parishioners. This building was designed as a Hall, with a separate sanctuary adjoining the hall, paid for from £2,000 donated by Edith Palmer Gwatkin. The whole scheme, costing £16,000 financed and paid for during the three years building period, without recourse to loans from financial bodies.
The effort that was put into that project organised by the Wardens and Treasurer, is equally matched forty years later, as can be witnessed by reading their monthly parish magazine.
Gladys, who was not a churchgoer, did however undertake collecting in the outskirts of Leigh Park for Christian Aid. That is an area that the church members avoided, for various reasons, such as dogs having a bite or two. I felt that the vicar could be proud that this small village had supported the church's activities, such as the summer shows on Bidbury Mead.
There was improvement in Harry's behaviour pattern whilst he attended Havant Day Centre. A typical day in December witnessed him fully dressed, lying on his bed during tea-time, with the fire on, having taken valium. When awakened, he claimed he saw five of me. Earlier in the day, he had called his mother 'a cow', with a girl from next door in the house, whilst dressed in his pyjamas.
He saw Dr Cross, his psychiatrist, at Havant Day Centre on the 8th December, who told him that he would get him to work. Harry was told that the doctor was busy on his yacht, but would see his mother the following week, to discuss Harry's future management. Harry had had electric shock treatment several times during the past week, and was again in bed most of the time when he was required to have meals.
Gladys and I saw a stand-in doctor for Dr Cross on the 14th December at Havant Day Centre. He told Gladys that she was wrong to tell Harry to throw his tablets in the loo. She had done this because he had taken six tablets in one go. The doctor thought Harry would eventually respond in two to three months, and he would send him to hospital, if necessary, for us to have a holiday. He sent for Harry, to tell him to do jobs at home, because his mother complained about his untidy bed. He asked his mother to see him in two to three weeks' time.
Harry was having further electric shock treatment, and Largactil pills. He went about in a daze, and did things that suggested he had lost his memory. He had refused to go into hospital to allow us to take a holiday, so we were unable to plan a break. Really, we could not see any light at the end of Harry's tunnel.
On Christmas leave from Bath University, Andrew found a temporary job at a local bank. Apart from seeing some members of the Crusaders movement, based at the Methodist Church, with whom he became acquainted during the summer holidays, he remained very unobtrusive at home, spending most of his time listening to Radio Caroline in his bedroom. He said little to us about his studies, apart from the fact that he found it hardgoing. I told him that there was no purpose in his attending, if he was not stretched. Then, to my surprise, he mentioned that it must be great fun to be a DJ on Radio Caroline. Our conversation finished with his thoughts afloat the ship and mine wondering what the university had done to him.
Within a week of Stan Cadman's appointment as Manager, I moved into the office adjacent to his, sited within the main drawing office. He wished me to have special responsibility for all the staff located away from the main office, and this included the Compass Laboratory at Slough, and at HMS Excellent.
The Compass Laboratory ACO had been merged with ASWE recently and there was much resentment, by the staff who been had independent with their own director, for most of this century. This was a top priority to visit their drawing office on a fortnightly basis, and to ensure their director was made aware of my presence.
When Molly, the secretary, learnt of my new role, she came into my office and congratulated me on becoming the Deputy and then remarked about having jollies to Slough.
I had a pleasant surprise on my first visit to ACO, Slough. On meeting their director, for he was proud to tell me that he had started his career in the drawing office. He welcomed this visit and sent for the senior PTO 2, Alan Green, to take me round his Establishment and to see him before I returned back to base.
Alan Green was very courteous and informative about the work of ACO and about his office, as I was given this conducted tour. Attached to this very old Establishment were playing fields, including a bowls green, which was maintained by their Sports and Social Club.
Another surprise I had was when being introduced to the drawing office staff. I met my former friend from ARL, Teddington, Gordon Newcombe, who had recently been promoted to a PTO 2 and transferred here.
At first the senior staff were suspicious of me playing the part of the 'Big Brother' and gave me an uncomfortable time since they too felt forgotten now, being an out-post of ASWE. By the time I had visited each member of the staff, I thought their attitude had changed to me, and that my next visit would be without their regarding me as an inquisitor from ASWE.
Reporting back to the director before leaving, I told him that I had learned quite a lot about their work and staff, and was sure that he could rely on me to represent them on any matter that might arise at ASWE affecting his staff. We shook hands on leaving, and I felt that good relations had been restored. In the years to follow, the two Establishments came close together through inter-bowls matches, followed by social evenings in their Pavilion.
Before Andrew returned to university for the new term, he told me more about the 'pirate radio' ships, including Radio London, than I learnt about his place of studies. Maybe his Granddad's musical streak was in his blood, and was showing itself.
Harry continued not to show any improvement in his illness whilst he attended Havant Day Centre. During early 1973, now approaching 28 years of age, when he was asked to look after the fire, he threw water on it and put it out. He tried to find some other accommodation, without success. He told us he heard voices, saying 'you dope.' The he mentioned he had brightness and glare. He was worried about getting a job, but he had to see the Rehabilitation Officer at Havant Day Centre. Then he commented that my pupils were standing out and that all eyes were staring at him.
The foregoing took place on the 1st January, and on the 15th he entered St James' Hospital, as he was told it was like a 5-star hotel. The following day, he 'phoned and told us it was horrible, and did not compare with Horton Hospital. On the third day of his stay in hospital, I called intending to see Ward Sister Murray, who was in charge of Helen Cork Ward, which Harry was in. However, Harry was already waiting for me at the entrance to this ward, with his case packed. The sister later explained that he had discharged himself. The ward doctor said that he should not have done this, but that he had made up his mind to discharge himself.
Sister Murray gave me his pills, to hand over to Havant Day Centre and said that no one had ever said their ward was horrible, like Harry. It was equipped with colour television, lounge, indeed a 5-star hotel. However, they would not let this blot his copybook.
Harry attended the day centre the following day and told us that Dr Cross had forgotten that he had been to St James' on his recommendation. The following day, he had a 'Modicate' injection and told us about the voices he could hear. He spent the following day, Saturday, in front of the fire with two bottles of cider.
On the Monday, a Mr Melville, a welfare officer from St James', called at 2pm to discuss social matters on behalf of the doctor. He was surprised that he did not pay for his keep, and left without anything to offer.
This pattern of behaviour continued, when he found himself a job at Kenwoods, starting at 7.30 am. He left the first morning and told Manpower that the machine broke down and that they were to replace him. They were 'a lot of bastards'.
We had complaints from next door about the noise from Harry's records. I was in trouble with Gladys for allowing Harry to have the car, when he said he was having hallucinations.
In April we had an interview with Dr Cross, and the welfare officer, Mr Neville. We were asked how Harry was getting on. We reported some improvements, washing up, but nothing else. Dr Cross said that his mother did not praise him. He referred to Richmond House, a voluntary organisation, and would require support from the council - he could make no promise.
Again, the interview ended by a 'phone call and the only statement by Dr Cross was that he was 'not yet fit', I was questioned on my purpose of asking to see him.
During the latter part of April, Harry attended an evening party, and said it was Easter Parade, and that they had a hat for him. He came back early, and complained of hallucinations.
During May, he attended the Richmond House, and said that they knew he was peculiar. He started to remove wallpaper from his bedroom wall. He thought he should leave home and claimed Richmond House was 'hell' and asked if he should attend again? I told him 'yes', to help him gain confidence.
On the 15th May, he started work at Johnson's Furniture Shop, driving and helping in the shop. He walked out after three days, and commented about having illusions, but refused to talk about it. Once more he was on sick leave, on and off at Havant Day Centre.
The time had come to take my test for the Royal Life Saving Society Bronze Medallion at Wakefords School. I had attended a course leading up to this test, and felt very nervous, particularly when I had to undress in the water, and also the resuscitation demonstration on a full size model. The bearded examiner looked as if he had been a naval frog diver, he was R A Trenchard, Chief Examiner of Wessex Branch.
When the test finally came to the end, the examiner took me up on a number of points that he was not completely satisfied with, and I assumed I had failed. To my surprise, he said that I had just about made it. I smiled, and thanked him, whilst remembering the previous occasions, when I had just scraped through, in my war days, when I just made the operator fire control, OFC, grade. The other occasion I had just scraped through, according to my tutor, in passing the metallurgy subject for my Higher National Certificate for Production Engineering.
Without knowing Harry's day to day situation, it had become almost impossible to plan a holiday. At the end of May, I suggested that if the landlady at Perranporth, where I had stayed with a trials party from ARL Teddington had rooms to take the three of us, then we should go. This was agreed, since it was a quiet spot, having a good sandy beach, but also the landlady, Mrs Pearson, kept a good table and a clean house. Yes, she did have a vacancy, and would be pleased to have us on the 2nd June, for a week. There was no other way of getting away, without taking Harry, as we had done when we went abroad and hoped for a trouble-free break.
The residence at which we stayed overlooked the beach, with a neat garden providing huge bunches of carnations, and which was regarded by Mrs Pearson as her retreat, after spending her working life in London.
Staying as a permanent lodger was another city worker, who had pulled up his roots, and settled down here, hiring out deck chairs on the beach. Both claimed they had never returned to the noise and polluted air of London, and had no wish to do so in the future.
When I was on trials here, and stayed at this address, we had comfortable accommodation, and this was still the same. Harry seemed very settled in his room, without causing any problems. Travelling in the Beetle car here, Harry did a lot of sleeping, a side effect of his largactial pills which he had to take regularly.
Gladys was not too keen on swimming, so most of our time had been scheduled to go sight-seeing at such places as Lands End, St Ives and a few of the small fishing villages, including Mavogassey. On Sunday, our second day here, I avoided travelling in the car, still feeling stiff from driving here from Portsmouth. There was an idyllic atmosphere about this small, seaside village, with no through road, and having a lagoon with an odd palm tree or two planted in the gardens around the water's edge. Almost adjoining these gardens, a bowling green enhanced this setting in the centre of the village. We strolled and lazed about, and sampled their cream teas. I could not get any volunteers to have a swim, so did not have a chance to show off my life-saving ability.
On Monday, we prepared a picnic lunch to take with us to Penzance, taking the A30 road, where, if time permitted, we would also reach Lands End. The Beetle had been left on a slope, with the bonnet facing up the incline, outside our address at St Michels Road. With the car fully loaded and the passengers seated, I turned the ignition key. Apart from the starter motor turning, nothing else happened. There was no trace of the engine firing. After a brief inspection of the sparking plugs, I sent for the RAC, who instructed the local Shell garage to attend to the breakdown.
The mechanic discovered that the cylinders of the engine were full of petrol and had wet all the sparking plugs' points. Had a spark occurred, the car would have been a petrol bomb. With the car having the petrol tank in the bonnet and the engine in the boot, petrol had bypassed a seal and allowed gravity to pour petrol into the engine. Once again, our Guardian Angel had been keeping her eye on us and ensured we came to no harm. Our trip became null and void for the day, while the garage dried out the engine.
There was a silver lining to this cloud, for Harry obtained a job on the petrol pumps at this Shell garage. He kept this small job until the end of the week and told us he was not very busy, so had a lazy time. This certainly must have suited him, for thankfully he was relaxed for the whole of the stay here. This was helped by Mrs Pearson, who always had a pleasant smile for each one of us. She let it be known that she welcomed the trial teams from ARL, especially during the non-holiday periods.
All in all, this had been a stress-relieving break for each of us, and both Gladys and I hoped this would go some way to bring stability to Harry's behaviour.
Andrew returned from his summer holidays, and gave us a shock. "Can I have a quiet word with you about packing in my studies." These were the first words that he greeted me with, and momentarily I could not believe what I heard. After overcoming this shock, I tried to keep calm and replied, "Tell me more." Looking very sincere, he responded, "I find this hard going, and because computer work is very impersonal, I do not think I should get job satisfaction on this kind of work."
I immediately replied, "These training opportunities do not grow like apples on trees, and also, you did not stick at your apprenticeship, so what does this all add up to? I think before you make a final decision on withdrawing from university, you should give it another go." With this comment, Andrew merely half-heartedly murmured, "Well, alright then."
Gladys was not amused, for he, up to now, had not caused us any worries of any kind, but we did start to think, with the two sons not sticking at anything, we had faulty genes in our reproductive organs.
No more words were spoken to Andrew on this subject, and it was with apprehension that we waited to learn for sure whether he would be returning to his studies after the holidays. This he did, and put our minds at rest in this area.
It was possible, with Andrew's bedroom vacant, to have my Auntie from Aylesbury to stay with us and tell us more about the past. We collected her, and planned a visit to Bath while she was with us, where we could see Andrew and learn a bit more about what was going on. Andrew, whilst at home on leave casually referred to a girl, Linda, whom he had met at a church youth club at Bath.
Before our departure to Bath, we were told to call at a teacher's training college residence at Bath, where he would be with Linda. Andrew met us at the gate of this building and took us upstairs to the students' lounge. There was another couple, with the girl sitting on his knee, as did Linda, as soon as Andrew had sat down. Arms were then put around each other. I felt, at first, that we were in the way, and almost excused myself. I think Gladys was speechless, and it was thanks to Auntie Lou that the silence was broken. Eventually, after being introduced to each other, we all became talkative. Linda, we learned was taking Domestic Science, whilst Geoff Harris was taking French Classics at the university.
After we left the residence, Andrew came chasing after me and asked if it was alright for them to get engaged. He walked along with me and I gave a broad smile, and said, "It is up to you to make your own choice and gook luck to you both." Now Gladys, who was with Auntie at the time, commented dryly,
"They want their heads looking into." Andrew had reached the age of 20, and could, of course, become engaged without my permission and this I had to admire, having respect for his parents in asking first. Gladys' comment was typical of her outspoken jocular remarks. This comedy scene had been watched by the other three from their window, overlooking the front entrance path.
Auntie Lou, on the way home said, "This has been my best day for years, and I am sure they will make a delightful couple, don't forget to invite me to their wedding day."
Our friends, the Wilsons, had made contact with us and invited us to attend their son, Nick's speech day at King Edwards School, in Widley. The Patron of the School, The Lord Mayor of London, would be their guest of honour.
This was an occasion for Gladys to have purchased a new outfit and broad brimmed hat. When we met Ana and Bob, it was a scorching hot day, and all concerned were glad to be out of the hall when all the speeches and the awarding of prizes to the bright pupils had been completed.
The Lord Mayor and the Bishop, escorted by the Beak, and their wives, made a walk about on the sports field, meeting parents and pupils. The oppressive heat of the sun had not been anticipated, only the cream tea marquee provided shelter from the sun's glare.
The Lord Mayor and his party, very much overwhelmed with the heat, had almost completed their tour when he addressed Gladys, in our family group, which also included Ana's mother. "My dear, how is it you appear so cool?" Gladys promptly replied, "I have taken my knickers off." With this response, the smiling faces turned to blushes. The Mayor had difficulty in replying, when a female voice from his party was heard to say, "Perhaps, My Lord Mayor, you should remove your pants." At this moment, the official party got lost, you might say, among the crowd, as did Ana's mother. Ana looked at Gladys and said, "I expect that, being a Chapel member in her Yorkshire village, she will tell me to be more careful when choosing my friends, when you have left for home."
"For all you know, she might have taken them off herself, but not want to admit it. Maybe she has left to put them on." Gladys answered.
I had strict orders from Bob, that when the new cricket season started, I was to play for the Brooks Strollers, of which he was Captain. Witley was of special interest, as it was here that the Oceanography Group formed at ARL, and for whom I first worked, had become established alongside the King Edward School. It was close by at Haslemere, that ASWE was first formed from HM Signal School, during the war, using the premises of King Edward School. The Signal HQ premises at Haslemere was Lythe House, a country estate owned by the founder of HP Sauce, Sir Richard Garton.
Andrew had finally withdrawn from Bath University at the end of the autumn term. He brought all his books with him when he came home. He had alerted us that this might happen and so it could not be claimed that we were surprised. After he had dumped his load in his bedroom, I thought that a question or two would not be out of place.
"Tell me, Andrew. What are your plans from now on?"
Still with his self-assured manner, he grinned and remarked, "I have a Christmas part-time job at a local Bank. I have seen an advert for staff with the Inland Revenue, so I thought I would have a go at that."
"I am pleased you have something lined up of a permanent nature. May I suggest that you go to a local branch of the Inland Revenue before you start your temporary job?"
"Yes, Dad, I did intend to do that."
The following day, Andrew did go along to a Portsmouth branch and was taken on as casual labour, starting immediately he had finished his temporary bank job. Talking to Gladys about Andrew, we both agreed, that whatever happens, he would always fall on his feet. This was later confirmed. By the end of January 1974, he had obtained a trainee executive grade, after passing an interview held by the Civil Service Commissioners, Basingstoke.
There was still no light at the end of Harry's tunnel. He had refused to attend Havant Day Hospital and said they had called him a 'dog'. On the 26th June, 1973, he obtained work at Stanton's Plastic, removing burrs on the legs of furniture. He told us that his pay, of 50p an hour, would be increased to 60p if he stayed on the job. On Friday the 13th, he dashed in from work and rushed up the stairs to his bedroom and told us that he was going to London for the weekend, with a party from his works. He returned within the hour and told us that they had left without him. He seemed to like the people, apart from the manager, who scowled at him.
In mid-August, Dr Cross sent for Harry, to have his 'Modicate' injection, but he refused to have it. The doctor told him that he would collapse without it.
On the 19th August, he was sent home from Stanton's, because he had done no work during his last half hour. When I 'phoned the Works Manager, he told me that Harry could return the following morning. Harry claimed he was emotionally upset, and found himself another job as a joiner's mate at Pathfinders. Within a week, he reported sick to his family doctor, Dr. O'Flynn. On his sick report was 'Psychosis'. When he returned home, he said to me, "Would you send a destroyer to Australia if there was trouble in the English Channel?"
A big domestic scene developed in the kitchen. He told me that I should have thrown his mother out years ago. She went mad with a knife in her hand. Gladys was wild because Harry had burned holes in his bed sheets, while he smoked in bed.
I visited the Havant Day Hospital about the home situation and I am told that, apart from locking him in a secure ward, there was nothing they could do. He got the sack on the third week at Pathfinders, due to sickness and not finishing his job.
He visited the Samaritans, who told him to go to a Community Centre. On Tuesday, 18th September, he visited Portchester Community Centre and fainted whilst watching a film on drugs. He was taken to hospital by ambulance, and was soon discharged after arriving there.
On the 21st September, he was told to keep the noise down from his record player. He objected and said that he required a lock on his door. He came down stairs in his pyjamas, and continued to plague us for a door lock. His mother told me to stop eating, and make it clear to him that he cannot have a lock on his door. I walked out, and the row continued for some time.
A Mr Tyler from Manpower visited Harry and offered him a variety of jobs, and advised him against taking office work. Mr Tyler then took him to a job that had been arranged for him, but Harry refused to take it. He then went sick, and saw Dr O'Flynn, who again wrote on his sicknote, 'Psychosis'. Mr Tyler of Manpower refused to have any more dealings with Harry.
On the 8th October, he said that the Day Hospital was a 'waste of time, too many people bossing'. He spent his time playing records and smoking in his bedroom. He accused me of being stingy with money and drank two bottles of alcohol.
In early November, Harry attended St James' Industrial Therapy Unit, but only attended for two or three days, and then had finished. One night he complained that he had a paranoia attack when he laid on his bed. He blamed it on his 'Largactil' pills, which he had to take four to five each day. He refused to go to Havant Day because Stephanie, the therapeutic nurse, bossed him about. On the 11th November, he said that he would not go back to his new assistance gardening job at Purbrook Park School. The children looked at him, and knew that he was not married.
A Good Companion had planned to take Harry to the museums in the afternoon. When I returned from hockey, Harry came downstairs and said to his mother, "You won't kill me, will you?" I asked her why he should say this. Gladys stated that he had asked, when given morning tea, whether schizophrenics should be killed. Later in the day, he said he was not well when he met the Good Companion, who then brought him home. He said that it was an attack of paranoia.
On the 28th November, he had an hour with Dr Cross. He said that Harry had complained about his mother nagging him. Dr Cross regarded Harry as a long-term patient, who would have been locked up twenty years ago. The Havant Day Hospital would not have him back, since it was not intended to treat long term patients there. The Rehabilitation Officer had given up Harry's case. He stated that until such time as a hostel and occupational workshop was set up, there was no solution. He also stated that there was a need for a Trust for Court Protection.
Provided that one is compatible with the boss for whom you deputise, life as deputy to the drawing office manager can be tolerable, particularly when that boss has a sense of humour, as mine had. Matters are improved when the bosses secretary shares that sense of humour, as was the case with Molly. Stan was adapt at writing ditties straight out of his head, generally at my expense. That satisfying relationship with the manager, who never failed to call me 'Son' privately in his office, was conducive to the recovery of my natural sleep pattern.
My trips to ACO, Slough, continued, with an occasional disagreement with the scientific staff, when their drawing office role had not been used correctly. That occurred on one occasion, where the original drawings were being held outside the control of the drawing office. This resulted in a letter being sent to my boss, requesting that my nose be kept out of their practices. Fortunately, the director, ACO ex-draughtsman, intercepted this letter and resolved the matter locally.
Inter-bowling matches, between ACO and ASWE drawing office staff were very popular, and I always played on the ACO side on these occasions, as a diplomatic gesture! ACO had guests playing outside the drawing office, with all players taking part finishing in ACO's Sports Pavilion bar.
Occasionally, when I returned back to ASWE, I visited Dourney Common, Eton Wick, where I had awaited my demob at the end of World War 2, and where I had lain on my bed contemplating my future career.
During 1973 and 1974, I had continued to play Badminton and felt I could give players half my age a good game. I always claimed that it was due to the oxygen that I took in by playing hockey on Sunday mornings.
I had been invited to join Court Lane, Cosham bridge club on Wednesday evenings. The secretary of this club was also secretary to the Head of Highbury College, Cosham. This college had responsibility for providing education at Kingston Prison, Portsmouth. The secretary, Mary Brotherton, organised bridge sessions with prisoners each Friday night. Her players were recruited from Court Lane bridge club. So, it was inevitable that I should form part of that weekly bridge team. I must admit it was a shock to learn that the prisoners were mainly 'lifers'. When I played with them, my mind was on the crime that they were in prison for, not knowing how, or whose life had been taken. Only once did I learn the gruesome details from a prison warden. The prisoner, an Indian, had sawn off his daughter's head for committing some offence against their religion. This was the first and last time I ventured to enquire about my bridge player's criminal history.
I had the impression that those prisoners who wished to take up studies were given every assistance, and facilities to pursue their chosen subject. Where we played bridge was part of the education block, with several classrooms. A few of their bridge players had obtained qualifications whilst in prison. Other prisoners had achieved acclaim from their paintings, as did some who took up acting, like Leslie Grantham, who became well known later, when taking part in the TV series, 'Eastenders'. He discovered his acting ability whilst performing in plays at the prison, produced by the Portsmouth Players.
Whilst Harry worked as a porter for one day at Queen Alexandra hospital, he started a friendship with a nursing sister, who worked at Leigh Park. He brought Margery to dinner, and told us she played Lacrosse. Harry went to her flat several times, but the friendship died after a few weeks. Harry wanted to live with her, so that she could keep him. All he did was drink tea and lay on her bed. She realised that he was ill.
A social worker, from St James' Hospital paid us a visit on the 25th April to discuss plans for Harry. Mrs Helmsley told us that they had only had two cases similar to Harry's. She thought it would be best for Harry to stay in Light Villa, and get a job from there, finally becoming independent.
Following this visit, Harry did enter Light Villa, but continually discharged himself. Here is one scene out of many:
On Thursday, 2nd May, Harry arrived home in the morning, having obtained 'Mogadon' and 'Largactil' tablets from his doctor. When I arrived home for dinner, he was in his pyjamas, eating his dinner. At 1.30 pm, a charge nurse from St James' arrived to take him back. He refused to go and went upstairs to his bedroom. John, the charge nurse, was given a cup of coffee, who again approached Harry, now in bed, smoking. After half an hour, Harry came downstairs, completely dressed, with holdall packed, and departed with the charge nurse.
From the hospital he had found himself a job at Debenhams store, but only lasted the week. During this time, he had left the hospital and gone into digs near where he was working. He stayed at the digs for three nights, and returned home.
All the hospital people wanted to wash their hands of Harry, and the Social Security had asked for his disability vouchers, to be returned, as he had worked at Debenhams. That was part of a continuing saga. His mother was emotionally involved with nowhere to go, to take the load off her. Holidays were difficult to arrange, but I was determined that a break had to be organised. We decided to go away to Perranporth, where Harry, with luck, could find himself a job on the petrol pumps, as before.
It was all quiet on Andrew's front, with no surprises, such as packing in his job. During May he attended a two week course on Inland Revenue work. He later moved from a Portsmouth branch to the Hilsea branch.
Linda came to stay for few days in May, and while they were here, they told us that they had decided on their wedding date, 14th August, at Combe Martin, Devon. It would be an understatement if I said we were surprised with the sudden and almost immediate date for their wedding. I had a quiet word with Andrew, as regards where they intended to live, and what on, etc. I dreaded renting rooms, and have always avoided doing so.
About this time, the Portsmouth City Council were classifying certain areas for redevelopment. Stamshaw was such an area, which involved home improvements, where such property could be purchased from the housing department. Andrew had not thought about this aspect of getting married, I suppose one room will do, if you are in love!
When I obtained financial details about the scheme, it was necessary to have about £5,000 cash available to purchase one of these properties. Thus, it was possible for me to find this capital from the sale of Broom Road, with money surplus after the purchase of Wigan Crescent. Of course, Andrew was delighted to learn this, and a financial long-term loan was arranged between us. This property was at 99 Walden Road, Stamshaw, where not only were the houses given a face lift, but also the area, by planting trees alongside the roads. On Thursday, 18th June, contracts were signed, giving them access to their home, to make ready for occupation after the wedding in August.
Our landlady, Peggy Pearson, fortunately allowed for Harry's odd behaviour, as she had experienced him the previous year. When she spoke to him, she would address him as 'Sir Harry'. Peggy also provided him with his own table in a separate room. During most of our two weeks here, from the 1st June, Harry either stayed in his bedroom, or laid on the back seat of the car. There was only one incident that had us on edge. Harry told us he was going to throw himself off the cliff, and later that day, took an overdose of his 'Largactil' pills. A small social hall, close by in the village, enabled Gladys and myself to spend evenings in a local, friendly, atmosphere.
On our return journey we stayed at Coulscott Farm where Andrew's future parents-in-law lived, at Combe Martin, Devon. No modern gadgets, like vacuum cleaners were permitted here, by the Granddad Smallridge, who still owned and ran the sheep farm. He was a First World War veteran, and had fought at Gallipoli. He was based at Portsmouth, where he met and married his wife. Mrs Smallridge made a hobby of going to auctions at large country houses and buying antiques. The large lounge at their farmstead contained dark oak furniture, displaying some beautiful wood carvings. On the walls were large paintings, with picture frames matching the furniture.
Granddad had a strange sense of humour. He took me up 1-in-4 gradient Ball Point Hill, on his farm, with me standing on the back of his tractor. Added to this gradient was a transverse slope that contributed to my difficulty in keeping my balance. After this experience, I treaded with great care, lest there was a hidden trench for me to fall down.
All around the buildings were wild cats, hungry for food, not one was allowed in the farm house. Close to the back door, a spring provided water for the farm, there were no modern services here, such as electricity or gas. The farm had changed little over the past century. The spring was the reason for the farm being sited here many years ago.
The main talking subject was the imminent wedding planned to take place, in their village chapel. They were very pleased to have Andrew become a member of their family. Linda's mother, was Smallridge's daughter, who married their farm hand, William Lerwill, a well-known name in that district.
For Gladys, the future wedding had only one main purpose, and that was to shop around Southsea for a new outfit and broad brimmed hat, complete with shoes to match. It was also an occasion to purchase a new suit for Harry, who now had no money, due to his working at Debenhams when on sick benefit. Andrew had asked him to act as usher at the chapel. This was, of course, an uncertain assignment, but it was a nice gesture of Andrew and Linda.
All the Irwin family, less Sam, who had deserted their nest, attended the wedding. They included Barbara and Tony, Janet and Bob, Louise, and Philip, with their mother, Ella. When Barbara married, they went to live at Crombwich, Bridgwater, close to Hinckley Point nuclear power station, where Tony worked as an electrician. The Irwin family used their residence to stay the night before and after the wedding.
On Linda's side, both her parents and grandparents as well as her brother, Roger, and his wife, also attended.
Andrew had Geoff Harris for his best man, the same person whom we had met at the teachers' training college residence, Bath. Harry took up his station at the entrance to the chapel and performed his job well.
In this small seaside village, there was only one main street stretching roughly two miles. Owing to an accident, no cars could get through at the time the Bride's car was due to arrive at the chapel. In the chapel, the occupants were worried, lest the Bride failed to make it at all, none more so than the Bridegroom, standing with Geoff, the Best Man, at the Altar. The Minister, Rev Wood, a personal friend of the Lerwill family, showed concern, particularly as the wedding guests could be heard whispering to each other. He decided to ask the best man if he could find out the cause of the delay.
As Geoff reached the entrance to the chapel, sighs of relief could be heard from the congregation. The Bride's car had arrived, and so had rain clouds. Fortunately, Geoff located an umbrella and was able to keep Linda and the Bride's father dry, as he assisted them from the car into the chapel. Smiles now replaced the worried looks of those waiting at the Altar, including Andrew, who was seen wiping the sweat from his brow.
Once the Best Man had produced the wedding ring, there were no more anxious moments for the rest of the ceremony. The guests present, many of whom were from farming stock, in and around Combe Martin, gathered to congratulate the married couple, once the formalities had been concluded.
Fortunately, the rain had ceased, to allow photographs to be taken outside the chapel. It was realised, first by Geoff, whilst he was assembling family groups for the photos, that Harry was missing. No one had seen him at the marriage ceremony. Fortunately, Gladys had found company with Linda's brother, Roger and his wife, and was too busy chatting to notice Harry's absence, to mar the wedding scene. Just as the last photo was taken, the clouds dropped their tears of joy.
All made a hurried rush to their respective cars, awaiting along the narrow High Street, abreast of the chapel to drive to the wedding reception at Ilfracombe.
Geoff, the best man, in his toast to the Bride and Bridegroom, made reference to the engagement scene at Bath. The fact that Gladys had told Andrew, on learning of his engagement proposals, that he should have his head looked into, created laughter amongst those present. They were Linda, Geoff and his future wife, Jane, all of whom witnessed, from the window above the main entrance to the students' hall of residence, his telling his parents of his engagement intentions.
During those remarks, Gladys became aware that Harry was not present, and murmured to me, "Harry is not here, where is he?" I tried to put her mind at rest, and replied, "He has probably returned to his digs at Mrs Tipper, Combe Martin"
Immediately the married couple departed for their honeymoon, Gladys and I made our farewells to the guests. Only one thing was on our mind, what had happened to Harry? We arrived at our digs in Combe Martin, where our landlady told us that she was surprised that Harry had remained in his bedroom throughout the wedding procedures. We just laughed with relief, knowing now that he was safe, after all he had done his job of usher at the chapel.
It was arranged, that we should return to Lerwill's farm for the evening. Harry, who was fast asleep, and had, no doubt, taken an overdose of pills, was left a plateful of food, brought back from the wedding reception, including a slice of wedding cake.
Whilst at the farm, Gladys could not come to terms with the wild cats not being allowed into their dwelling. We had always had a pet cat, and this sort of treatment, being banned from the farmstead, was quite alien to her. Later, we learned that Linda was also averse to animal house pets, strange for someone who has been brought up on a farm.
I asked Roger, during the evening, what was the strange looking building that we had seen when we returned from Ilfracombe, through the High Street, in Combe Martin. He named this structure the 'Pack of Cards Hotel'. It was once the residence of George Ley, who had built it in 1715 to celebrate winning a large sum of money, whilst playing cards.
Ley had this house built to look as if it was built from a pack of cards, as a monument, in honour of his favourite amusement. It had thirteen doors on each of the four floors, representing the four suits. The house had fifty-two windows, some of which were later bricked in as a result of the imposition of the window tax in 1784. Inside the building, a large table had a false top, providing a hiding place for three men during the period of the press gang. This was when able-bodied men were pressed into the service of His Majesty's Navy. The 'Pack of Cards' was used as a tavern, and regarded as a tourist attraction by the local residents.
On our return home the following day, I was determined to visit Watchet, with the purpose of visiting the radar 'ack-ack' training station I had attended during the war. That was where I became a fire control operator. It was here that I remember dining in the sergeants' mess, where there was no sign of rationing, particularly as oranges were readily available on the dining tables. Alas, when we arrived at this former army training station, all that remained were the roads and accommodation emplacements.
A few weeks after Andrew had returned from their honeymoon, I received a 'phone call from him, requesting I help him wallpaper. He said, "Dad, will you come round at tea-time to help us decorate the living room, we are having visitors tomorrow?"
I replied, "Do you mind repeating your question, I am not sure I heard it correctly." This was done, and was a repeat of what I had heard. I responded, "It is not generally accepted that a room can be decorated in one evening."
"Oh, Linda and I are prepared to work through the night, if necessary." he commented.
I knew that Andrew had not wallpapered before, and therefore I could not refuse to give assistance. This did not mean that I was going to work until day break! What I had not bargained for, was that I finished up doing the pasting, while they papered the walls. This was after I had explained the method of positioning the wallpaper and removing air bubbles.
It was very much a repeat of when Andrew was a boy. Whenever I taught him Maths, he always claimed that he knew how to work out the answer before I told him. When I saw him leave the wallpaper untrimmed after starting on the next strip, I knew that he would have a problem to trim it once the paper had dried.
I came away from Stamshaw, late that night, convinced Andrew could tackle any new job; he would also convince any new instructor that he already knew what he was being taught. Not a single strip of paper did I put on their walls, I was confined to pasting. I suppose it is a gift - self confidence!
It should be mentioned that when Andrew trimmed the bottom edges of the wallpaper, it had wrinkled and would not lay flat on the edges of the skirting boards.
Linda had made it known that she could not get used to living in a built up area, like Portsmouth. She found Stamshaw particularly depressing, with its long terraced roads and run-down houses. Six months after their marriage, Andrew mentioned that he had been offered a job in an accountant's office, as a tax advisor, somewhere in the west country.
I saw red and laid into them both. "Do you realise that without a qualification, you will be a dogsbody in the accountant's office? It would be 'us and them', 'us' being the qualified staff, 'them' being the unqualified and poorly paid. As it is, you have the equivalent of a professional career without a qualification, with a good pension to look forward to. If you want to do it your way, so be it! I shall want you to return the £4,000 on your house, that your mother asked to forget this loan I made to you." No further words were spoken as they left the house.
My remarks to Andrew were based on my experience in the civil service, with its security and prospects, compared to the cut and thrust of industry and commerce. I was much relieved later to learn that they were negotiating for a new house at Clanfield. This was then followed by the news that Linda was pregnant. So was the real reason for wishing to move, due to not wishing to raise their child in Stamshaw?
I hoped then, that this first interference with Andrew's judgement regarding his future, turned out to be to his benefit. Only time would tell, and it would be for him to make that known, should it be the case.
On our return from the wedding, Harry told us that he had had coffee thrown over him whilst at the farmstead. Once again, we had returned to Harry's real world, where the wedding occasion must have been a passing fantasy.
Harry, who had been in some digs at Southsea prior to the wedding had returned home and attended Havant Day Centre from time to time. This arrangement lasted until the end of August, when he decided to finish with the centre because they told him to wear a dress. "What am I to do?" he asked me, "I cannot go back to St James' Hospital." This was because he had blackened the eye of the canteen supervisor at Pink Villa. I told him that he should help his mother until I had a chance to sort things out.
Gladys again showed signs of stress in her looks and had become totally lost for words, not knowing what to do for the best. On the 6th September, I called at Havant Day Centre and spoke to Sister Murray. She said that Harry was in a state of 'limbo' as he had discharged himself from both the centre and St James'. He was trying to go to Graylingwell Hospital, Chichester, and an appointment had been made for him. Harry had told her that the farm people were saying things about him, and had thrown coffee over his shirt.
Harry was interviewed by Dr Morrissey at Graylingwell, followed by a visit to the house by a male nurse. He was accepted as a day patient and was taken to and fro by transport provided by the hospital at Chichester during the end of September.
A good Samaritan, Mr Stewart, was told by Harry not to visit him again because he scratched his privates and they (The Samaritans) were talking about him.
He continued to worry his parents, particularly when his mother discovered that a bolt had been fixed to the inside of his door. Finally, he was admitted into Graylingwell as an in-patient on the 21st October. A social worker from the hospital called to tell us that Harry was classed as a long-term patient. During the period up to the 20th December, no solution could be found and he was finally discharged.
This was Christmas week and we were due to go to Linda's farm over the festive season. Harry's discharge, together with: a) he had spent all his sick pay; b) he had been given three sets of pills, which I could not let him take without supervision; and c) his claim that the Devon people wanted to kill him, made it very unwise to go ahead with our Christmas plans.
However, we did spend the Christmas period on the farm, and it was a great relief to return home without a major incident. Harry joined in snooker, scrabble and dominoes.
On the 3rd January, 1975, Harry and his mother saw Sister Murray at Havant Day. This proved a waste of time, for she suggested that Harry should see the Padre at St James', with a view to working for a special unit on a farm in Cornwall.
We visited our family doctor, to obtain his support for an application for an attendance allowance. Dr O'Flynn agreed to this request, resulting in an allowance being granted for day attendance. On the 16th January, an official of the Social Security Services called, to establish that I be the legal representative on all matters regarding all monies sent to Harry from the Social Services. This was a follow up of the attendance allowance claim sent to this department.
Dr O'Flynn refused to prescribe 'Stallazine' and replaced this with 'Largactil'. He said this was more relaxing. Harry was told not to drink cider. He tried to get part-time work, what money he received from sick pay, he spent immediately.
I had been accepted into the IV eleven team of the Portsmouth and Southsea Hockey Club. The teams we played against brought me into contact with many hockey players, and new areas, such as Hamble.
My team's home ground was St Helen's, alongside the putting green, situated at the Eastney end of Southsea front. During the summer months, the ground is used for cricket. Whilst this ground could be quite an attractive spot in the summer, it was not so in the winter, for it was a question of survival during cold spells. When an easterly wind blew, it was a battle to hold one's hockey stick. Why does a 59 year old wish to punish himself so, it is not better to go shopping?
I ceased my membership with Petersfield Hockey Club, where I played mixed hockey on Sunday mornings. I was reminded by my neighbour, Bill Dracket, that I was not being fair to Gladys if I was going to be playing hockey both Sunday and Saturday each week!
During the summer months, I continued to play cricket for Brook Cricket Club. Bob Wilson, my friend from Teddington, who had moved to Witley close by, was Captain of the team I played for - The Strollers. Mick, Bob's son, also played in the team, and with Ana preparing the teas, it could have been called the Wilson's team. Occasionally, Gladys would come along, depending on the domestic situation.
There comes a time, in one's life, when nature warns you, if you chance your luck too far, you do so at your peril. The last match I played in, I failed to make contact during three overs at the wicket. The ball that hit my wicket - I never saw it leave the bowler's hand.
I had my eyes checked the following week, and was told that I did not need glasses. I put the failure to see the ball down to the dark background behind the bowler's arm, there were no sight screens in use! I did feel justified that this was the case, and accepted that I had been fortunate to have been playing up to my present age.
My two year Badminton course at evening school, that came to an end at the beginning of the summer season, spawned a private club. This was called the Midway Badminton Club. This met once a week at Warblington School. Once the club entered the local league, the game became more serious, and I had difficulty in finding partners.
During the first year, the club held a dinner and dance at the Brookfield Hotel, where I was able to take Gladys for the evening, this venue lived up to its reputation in providing splendid food. This hotel, in Emsworth, had become one of the leading places in the area for weddings and banquet receptions. It would be difficult to forecast that 20 years later I would be invited to attend the Diamond Wedding Anniversary of Bill and Vi Yeoman in 1996, here at The Brookfield.
My bridge world had expanded, given me separate partners for each occasion. On Monday nights, I played duplicate bridge at the Southsea Community Centre, with my partner, Len White. He had been a pilot in Coastal Command during the last war. He became very close and I felt he played much better bridge than myself. He introduced me to the Precision System, replacing the basic Acol System.
On Wednesday nights, I played at Court Lane School, Cosham. My partner was Elaine Withers, an infant school headmistress. She was a good tennis player. Her husband had left her with a teenaged son and daughter. We kept our partner- ship going for a number of years.
This club had been formed by an ex-naval officer, Ron Fielder, whose partner was Mary Brotherton. She was secretary to the Principal of Highbury College. Once Ron had a pack of cards in his pocket, he became quite a different person, quite the reverse to his normal charming manner. They were noted for their inquest after each game. I suppose he could be compared to some car drivers, who change into another kind of mad person.
The Highbury College was assigned the authority for the education of Kingston Prison inmates, all of whom were 'lifers'. Mary Brotherton arranged for bridge players to turn up at the prison to play bridge with a small number of prisoners in the education wing of the prison. This took place on Friday nights, when I partnered Wilma Killean, a psychology lecturer at the Teachers Training College, Locksway Road, Milton. This partnership also lasted a number of years. Her husband was head of the English department at Portsmouth Polytechnic.
Thus I had three evenings' bridge with three different partners. Gladys did not seem to complain about my absence at bridge, providing I was playing bridge - and I was. From time to time, I had bridge evenings home where she met my bridge friends and supplied refreshments.
I had developed a lump around the lower stomach region. This information, I kept to myself, not to worry Gladys with more bad news. However, I found this lump was impeding my game of hockey. When I saw Dr O'Flynn, he immediately referred me to a hospital consultant, Mr Campbell. He considered I had a hernia, needing immediate attention.
Within four weeks, I was in Queen Alexandra Hospital. This was my first stay in hospital, so I could not complain about my health. I believe this was the first spell of sick leave I had during the whole of my life, apart from the short spell at Christmas, when in France on guard duty, during the war.
Gladys had two of us to worry her, which gave me great concern. I finally came to terms with the fact that I was no different from any one else and that I, too, can need hospital treatment.
I was happy to accept sleeping tablets for the first night in this open ward. The operation was planned for the next morning. I received an injection in my arm before being taken to the operation room. The previous night I had decided that I would study everything that went on through the ward. The was my work study training making its presence felt. I was particularly keen to see what went on in the operating theatre. On being taken to what I presumed was the annex to the theatre, I remember two men in white coats leaning over me and one said to the other, "No, not that one, this one." At this moment, I must have passed out, for what came to my mind was that they had a learner operating on me. I wished to hear no more, and was content to let them get on and be out as soon as possible.
After a few hours, I was visited by a nurse, and later by a physiotherapist. Two or three others in the ward, were walking lively the following day after their operation. I had great difficulty in moving about, due to the stitches causing pain, with the least bit of body motion. This state continued for several days, with the house doctor saying the wound would heal up.
Another worry was that I was constipated. I had not been able to go to the toilet for nearly a week. I was frightened to go now, lest I damaged the stitches in straining myself. To my surprise, I was discharged in this condition and told to report to the family doctor, with a report from the hospital.
When I arrived home, I told Gladys to send for the doctor. Dr O'Flynn
inspected the wound on his arrival, and told me it was infected. He also sent for the district nurse to attend to my backside. He was surprised that I had been discharged in that condition. He immediately put me on a course of penicillin and had doubts that it would heal the wound!
When the district nurse arrived, she applied an enema, wasting no time in the process. I was more than relieved that this part of the hospital's shortcomings had been put right. I suppose that penicillin had not been in use a great many years, but I was grateful for its discovery. It took a matter of days for the wound to heal, and I was back on the hockey field a month after this operation.
"What caused this wound infection, and was it a learner who stitched my stomach wall at the end of the operation?"
© Alan Rayment 1998
Last revised: January 14, 2001