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please go to the bottom of the page -
Our New Home
The summers were very hot and the winters
very cold, and I was to experience nine of
each. Which, to be honest, was rather unusual
for a military family in the fifties, for
the average posting would usually only last
for about three or four years. The countryside
in which we lived was rather flat and contained
lots of woodland, consisting mostly of Silver
Birch or Conifers, or indeed combinations
of both. As we were on the edge of Luneberg
Heath, wild heather grew in abundance. The
camp itself, which was a Garrison containing
about six differant Regiments, was completely
self contained and isolated in its own little
world, out in a rural backwater about three
miles from the nearest German village of Bergen.
The married families were housed in blocks
of flats, two stories high, each one also
with an attick and a cellar area. We were
on the back of the block on the upper floor.
Each building was situated in its own very
large plot of land and fenced off from its
immediate neighbouring block. So there was
plenty of open space between the buildings
and there were also many small woods and fields
to run wild and free in. And safe! Above all
perfectly safe. For a small adventurous boy
it was the perfect place to grow up in, and
I loved every minute of my childhood because
of it! In the flat we had double glazing and
central heating with radiators in every room
and all the mod cons of a modern bathroom
and kitchen, and compared to our families
back home in England, we were living in the
lap of luxury by comparison! We even had a
maid for those first few years, something,
I am quite sure, that my Mother would never
have envisioned, not even in her wildest dreams,
whilst living in our broken down old Victorian
quarters back in Aldershot. If people were
suffering back home in austerity Britain,
for the Germans it must have been ten times
worse! So they hired their services to their
recent conquerors for a mere pittance.
As we approached our first German Christmas
(1952) my Mother took my brother and myself
to one side and explained to us just how badly
off the German people were, and could we let
our maid have one of our Teddy Bears, so that
she could give her children something for
Christmas. I went to my room and returned
with all of mine, about three in all. 'No,
no! Said my Mother. Just one will do.' I shook
my head and placed them all into her hands.
I had just recently turned five and started
school and considered that Teddy bears were
now beneath my new status. And besides, I
just couldn't image a child waking up on Christmas
Day to find nothing at the foot of the bed!
I will never forget the look on our maid's
face the next day when our gifts were handed
over to her, and I do remember feeling slightly
embarressed by her tears, for she did cry!
We never had very much in those days and I
found it so hard to understand that there
were people far worse off than we were.
Every Christmas in Germany was a white one,
and the snow would lay thick on the ground
for weeks at a time. Father would drive out
to the local woods and chop down a Christmas
tree and it would take over and fill a corner
in the sitting room and reach up to the ceiling.
How on earth we never burnt the house down,
I'll never know, but of course we didn't!
For the candles that adorned the branches
were real ones, to be lit very slowly and
most carefully with matches every evening
during the twelve days of Christmas. I've
no doubt that it was at this first Christmas
that the sledges turned up for my brother
and myself. A great source of amusement for
us during the winter school holidays, despite
the lack of available hills. But we utilised
a rather steep bank that was at the edge of
some sports fields near the camp cinema, and
that was good enough for us!
Born to Roam! ( With apologies to
My Mother and I eventually returned home to
a commandeered house in Kiel, no doubt the
former property of some middle class German
family. After all these years no one can remember
the address, but you can be sure that it would
have been very cosy, with its double glazing
and central heating! The Germans, as I would
discover for myself one day in the fairly
near future, seemed years ahead of us when
it came to basic home comforts!
However, we would not be there for very long,
and in March 1948 I was to be taken on the
first of many journeys that I was to experience
during my formative years. This one, in fact,
would take me all the way from my birth place
of Kiel, to Exeter in Devon, England, the
home town of my parents.
Our mode of transport would have been a troop
train, which would have made its way steadily
through Germany and Holland, and eventually
ending up at the Hook of Holland where we
would board a cross channel ferry bound for
Harwich on the east coast of England. The
crossing, on this and subsequent journeys,
was always at night! If one must cross turbulent
waters, doing so in the horizontal position
in a bunk, must surely be the best and most
comfortable way to do it!
13 Chamberlain Road was typical of the 'two
up two down' terraced houses erected for the
working class poor in the late 19th and early
20th Centuries. No central heating, no double
glazing, no bathroom and an outside toilet!
What a contrast to my first home, luckily
I was too small to even care or notice! But
we weren't there for very long either. A mere
six months later and we were residing at 30
Corrie Square in Aldershot where Father's
regiment had been posted. This time we managed
to stay put for all of eight months, and then,
a mere five days after the birth of my brother
Christopher, we moved to 16 Victorian Terrace
Things improved this time and it was well
worth emptying the cases! For we stayed here
for all of twenty months! Of course! You are
all beginning to pick up the threads of this
by now, aren't you? This time we all headed
back to Exeter where we remained for only
a few months for Father's regiment was on
the move again. 'Where to now!' My Mother
would no doubt have declared in some exasperation!
'Somewhere nice and warm perhaps!' 'Kenya,
Malaya, Singapore, Hong Kong? Cyprus? Cyprus
would be nice!' But alas, it was not to be.
'No dear!' he replied. 'It's Germany again!'
And so, after completing the two day journey
that I had previously undertaken when I was
a mere four months old, but this time in reverse
order, we arrived at our new home. Hohne,
a fairly large, self contained, army garrison
situated in North West Germany on the edge
of the Luneberg heath.
All I can truthfully say about any of the
above narrative is that I have no personnel
recollections of any of it! None whatsoever!
It is only from this point of my life that
my childhood memories have any meaning for
me. For we stayed here for an incredible ten
years! Ten years of which, to me, were a perfect
and idyllic childhood!
A Noisy Arrival!
I would like to welcome
you to this new section of my website. As
its title 'Random Thoughts' suggests. It could
be about any topic that I choose to unravel
my opinions and thoughts on. But I think it
might make sense to commence this little enterprise
of mine at the beginning, the very start of
it all in fact!
I first tumbled, rather awkwardly as it happens,
into this world on a bitter fog bound, and
rather dreary early winter's day, on the tail
end of the month of November 1947, the 27th
to be precise. The exact hour escapes me,
but you can almost guarantee that it would
have been a most awkward and inconvenient
one. I do believe that the hours of darkness
were involved, for I have often been told
the story that 'the ambulance crept down the
fog bound Autobahn.' Now there's a clue, if
ever I heard one! Yes, you guessed it. We
were in Germany. The German Naval port of
Kiel, or rather what remained of it after
the R.A.F. had finished with it! Apparently
very little of it was left undamaged and a
great deal of it was devastated beyond repair.
Why was I born here?
A fairly simple explanation accounts for it,
and I am sure that by now you have already
guessed the reason. World War Two! My father
was a career soldier who served in North Africa
with Monty's Desert Rats and then took part
in the D Day landings in Normandy. His unit,
The 4th Royal Horse Artillery, found themselves
in Kiel when the war ended and that was where
they remained as part of the newly formed
Back to my arrival! To say it was problematic
would be an understatement, for I was born
two months premature and weighed, as my mother
would constantly remind me in the years ahead,
only two pounds. 'A bit like a bag of sugar.'
Was the way that she would put it and I was
also small enough to fit into the palm of
my father's hand! It was an emergancy birth
in a medical facility on the camp that was,
in truth, little more than a medical reception
area. Hence the requirement for a journey
down the Autobahn to Hamburg Military Hospital,
in a rather slow and very basic, Army ambulance.
It was to be touch and go for both of us,
for my mother had lost a great deal of blood
and all they did for me was to wrap me in
blankets and place me in a laundry basket
with a hot water bottle. Upon our arrival
the doors of the vehicle were flung open and
an Army Nursing Matron, whose size and demeanour
would have made her an ideal candidate for
the New Zealand All Blacks, stared down at
both of us and muttered the never to be forgotten
phrase, never to be forgotten by my mother
that is! 'There's nothing we can do for him
but we'll see what we can do for you!' Charming!
Don't you think? Anyway, I proved the old
Battleaxe wrong! Because here I am, still
creating havoc and making a noise!
I mentioned noise because, despite my size,
or lack of it might have been a better way
to put it, I must have had a fairly decent
pair of lungs on me, for I nearly drove my
parents insane with my constant yelling and
screaming. So much so that medical help was
sought. The remedy was crude, but effective!
They left me alone in a room to scream and
bellow away to my heart's content, and just
ignored me until I stopped!