Sketch by Jack Chalker


The Queen Mary arrived in Southampton on November the 18th and had over 4,000 passengers, the majority of whom were soldiers and over 830 crew members.  My grandfather said it felt strange to get to Southampton.  Overwhelming and strange.  But he was glad to be back.  They were taken off the boat and were put onto trucks where they were taken to a hall.  There they had a medical examination and when calls went out for soldiers looking for trains back to Edinburgh my grandfather stepped forward with two or three others.  They got the train to London and then the overnight train to Edinburgh where they arrived early in the morning.  He felt relief to be home.  He was met at Waverly station by his mother and brother Donald.  They took a taxi to the house and his Aunt and father were in the shop at Restalrig. The shop was decorated with flags and there was a gathering of customers, friends and well wishers waiting for him when they got out the taxi.  Later that afternoon, he told me, he went out for a drive around the area in the Hillman 14.  His mother was in tears when she first saw him at the station – although he said that he was almost back at his normal weight when he got home – he put weight on quickly in the two months since his departure from Japan.  There was a party arranged at the Balmoral Hotel by his mum and dad and another arranged by the customers from the shop somewhere else.  He didn’t get a job very quickly.  He rested and recuperated.  I’ve been told he went out and bought a lot of flowers when he came back.  When he was conscripted he was working in the General Post Office in Glasgow and had been there since 1937 or 38, so he had been away from home for eight or 9 years.  His job was kept open for him and he was offered a promotion, but he didn’t take it.  He wanted to go home and stay in Edinburgh, can’t really blame him after what he’d been through.  His pay had also continued during the war so he came home to a healthy bank balance of between 1200 and 1300.  Which, at that time was a lot of money.  You could buy a good sized house for between 400 and 500 if that gives you an idea of the amount it was.  I suppose if it were to be done now, the modern equivalent would be similar to coming home to around 250,000.  He resigned from the G.P.O job and was unemployed for nine months.  During which time he helped at the Post Office in Restalrig.  As a good note to round things off on, he told me that he met Mary Ross on the day he returned.  Was she standing outside the Post Office as he got out of the taxi waiting to cheer him home?  A lovely image.  Maybe she walked into the shop later that afternoon when he’d returned from his drive.  I can’t imagine my grannie being shy, but perhaps she was.  Was she awkward, timid, or her no nonsense self right from the start?  They were married less than a year later in 1947. 


The End

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