Jane Hedge

British Civilian

My father William Rowland Clark joined the Sherwood Foresters 1st Battalion Reg.No. 497363, he joined in Lincoln. In 1935 he was posted to Park Farm Camp, Kingston,  Jamaica after his initial training. The regiment worked with the Jamaican Police force at the time of the troubles when Tate and Lyle proposed a new factory, Whilst he was there he met my mother Moira Ogilvie Campbell, she was governess to Col. Steele’s two daughters Isabella and Rachael. They were married in 1938 in Jamaica, then the regiment returned to England in 1938. . Mum went to Chester to live with my grandparents Charles Ogilvie Campbell and his wife Molly Jolly where I was born. The house had all modern facilities including a telephone as my grandfather was an architect who in later years restored parts of the Rows in Chester..

In 1939 Dad’s regiment was posted to Palestine then on to Cyprus, from there some men were sent to Albania before going to Norway in 1940. In 1942 the regiment was posted to Tobruk. At Tobruk Dad was shot in the leg fighting the Italians and went to hospital in Tobruk. The regiment surrendered to the Afrika Korps and Sgt. W Clark was sent to a POW camp in Italy before being transferred by train to Stalag V11-A Moosburg An Der Isar, Bavaria and given the POW number 127414 he was in prison from 1942 until 1945. Dad was discharged from the army in February 1946 (Discharged as an ex. POW service not required). He then came to live with us at my grandfathers’ house in Chester.

Grandma died in 1942 and Aunt Kitty looked after me as mum went out to work. When I was 3 I went to Queen’s School Kindergarten, I can remember being issued with a gas mask. Food was very scarce due to rationing, it helped with granddad being able to grow his own vegetables and fruit, I really enjoyed the blackcurrant purée Mum made. Granddad had worked with a firm of spinners and weavers that made dense blackout curtains for Whitehall, so the ones he had in the house were excellent. When the air raid sirens went off I was wrapped up well and put under the cold slab in the pantry as they thought that was the safest place!!. German bombers often went over Chester on their way to bomb Birkenhead or Liverpool the local Ack-Ack guns seemed to be firing on a regular basis. Later in the war I can remember hearing the German “Doodle Bugs” it was extremely frightening when the noise stopped, I can remember one landed on the Golf Course near Chester Zoo. If you went anywhere near Liverpool the worst thing was seeing the “Barrage Balloons”  They were very frightening.. I remember on V-E Day that a lady down the road had a troop of dancers and they practised their dance on our lawn before dancing in the Town Centre.

When Dad returned to Chester it was difficult for him to decide what to do, he had been a farm labourer before he joined the Army in 1935, he decided to move back to Ewerby in Lincolnshire .My sisters Carol, Angela and brother Charles were born in the Maternity Home in Sleaford .Dad got a job as a driver for BRS Transport collecting vegetables from farms and delivering them mainly to Sheffield Market. We then moved to Ruskington from Ewerby in 1950. Food was still rationed until 1954 so our main diet was potatoes with” stork” margarine and plenty of other vegetables from the garden,  fortunately sausages, Kidney and liver being off ration[no need for coupons] were always plentiful and occasionally you could buy minced beef [with coupons]. Never any chicken!!!. Dad like most people kept a pig in a sty in the garden so at times we had pork, the pig was killed by Mr Brown the local butcher.

I do remember POW’s working on the farms, a man from Lithuania was working out –side our house and Mum took him a drink and sandwich at lunch time, he brought me a beautiful embroidered blouse when he left, I wish I had kept it!!.I remember taking the accumulator to Muxlowes’ garage to be charged as the house at Ruskington had no power points and Mum cooked on a paraffin stove and an inglenook oven.

Dad had a very bad lorry accident in 1953 or 54 when he was driving down a very steep hill into Sheffield the brakes failed and he had to run into a wall to stop the lorry unfortunately the load of vegetables moved forward and squashed the cab and Dad was seriously injured.

I attended the local Sleaford Secondary Modern School and was one of the first children to sit “O Levels” at a secondary school. When I left school jobs were very hard to come by in the countryside so for a short time I worked on the local farm helping with beet singling , Corn harvest, picking potatoes ,I then went to work for the Lincoln Co-op, what a change in life, having to remember everyone’s co-op number, mental arithmetic (no tills in those days)and it was £-s-d not easy. When the young lad George, was called up to do his National Service, I was the strongest girl, I was soon asked to be in charge of the bacon. Carrying sides of bacon was not easy, I learnt how to take out the ribs so that the bacon could go on the slicer. I often went out with Mr Palmey in the van delivering grocery orders to farms and cottages in Digby, Temple Bruer and Dorrington area.

After the accident dad went to Skegness to recuperate and met a gentleman who worked for Standard Telegraph & Cable installing the first hi-tech cables, eventually the gentleman offered Dad a job so the whole family moved to Banbury in 1958.

Jane Hedge February 2018

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