Sketch by Jack Chalker

Ireland

Phil headed to Barrow in serch of Kathleen, Jack to Rawtenstall and Jim to Leicester, it was goodbyes all round “see you for demob in Catterrick”.

Dad on left with Jim and jack-tn

Dad right with Jack and Jim

When Phil got off the train there was no one to meet him, he had not stopped to send a telegram they were for bad news, he got off the train and he double timed to 62 Harrison St.  Kathleen was home because it was getting late,  dad was a bit shy on the sex front but he picked Kathleen up and carried he upstairs there was four nearly five year to make up for.

A week of good food and beer, help him to settle in, the waterloo pub at the end of the street was to his liking.  Saturday night was a sing song, anybody with a good voice got up! They would give a song accompanied by the piano, everybody would join in, and it was the best time he could remember, I’ll take you home again Kathleen being the only song dad ever sang.

Mother in law Bridget was still in Ireland with the youngest girl’s twins Sheila and Joan, as Phil was on a six week leave before demob they decided to go to Ireland for a mouth.

The journey was train to Carnforth,  then change trains for  Heysham. On the way Mr and Mrs Parkinson would meet up with the Parkinson clan for the wedding reception they never had!

Samuel Parkinson was down the pub when they arrived so it was down to the malt shovel,  Sam was so proud of Phillip, but while Phil had been away young Sam had died, because he worked with his dad on the railway he had been exempt to conscription, he died of pneumonia.

He had been out all night with his shotgun hunting rabbit, he came home saying he didn't feel well, he went to bed and never got up, a week of high temperature then one night he just died.

Granddad Sam and great granddad Dan and dad got drunk together talking of war and the death of Sam, meanwhile Kathleen was getting to know her new family.

Carrick broad ireland-tn

The house in north road was two up and two down with a cellar for coal. It was always a warm house because coal was a perk of working on the railways, the toilet was a long walk up the garden.

There was a tin bath in the wash house and six girls in the house how they managed was a work of art, when dad and granddad return from the pub drunk, everybody was in bed how we will never know.

There was Grandma Anne Margaret Barbara Nora Joyce and Florence and young Michael granddad Sam  Phillip and Kathleen all under one roof,  there was a secret to the planning, other members of the Parkinson clan lived in the same terrace.

Having said hello it was good-bye as they carried on to Heysham and the night boat to Ireland, docking in Belfast they had a good look around while waiting for the ten o'clock train to Newry.

The train journey to Newry took three hours stopping at every station,  Kathleen was looking forward to seeing her mother  Bridget again; she had one big problem she had not told Bridget that Phil was not a catholic, and she had married him in a registry office.

Bridget and sister Christine in ireland-tn

Bridget and sister Christine in Ireland

In those days this was no small problem, Catholics had a bad time in Northern Ireland, as a Catholic you could not work for the local government or in Shorts Shipbuilding, Phil didn't know what to expect.

Getting off the train and transferring to the local bus to carry on to Drumintee was like going back in time, the charaban!  an extended car with fourteen seats,  trundled along at walking pace, dad said next time we will walk.

Meeting Bridget and confessing he was not Catholic was so difficult for the both of them, they couldn't pull the wool over her eyes!  In the five years they had been married Bridget had heard that Phil was not Catholic, she had been praying he would die in Burma.

Bad start, they could promise Phil would change faiths, but this was not an option as his mother was a member of the Orange Lodge. Dad tried to tell Bridget that he didn't mind Kathleen being Catholic but she would have none of it.

Sunday was going to be the bad time Bridget rounding up her brood for Mass, dad doing anything but going with them,  This was not a pleasant experience, She was a woman who said what she thought and what she thought was Phil was not good enough for Kathleen.

She said for him to marry her not being Catholic, and going off all over the world without a care, and not worrying what happened to Kathleen was selfish and unreasonable.

Dad was none too pleased with this attitude ,he thought she was a cheeky bitch, a woman who runs back to Ireland as soon as war broke out leaving Kathleen and her sisters to look after themselves could not tell him he was selfish.

Dad with mum and Bridget-tn

Dad and Mum with Bridget

The holiday was off on a bad start Bridget in one room and dad in the other, Carrickbroad was a five bed roomed farm house in bad state of repair, holes in the roof, there had never been electricity or gas or running water, the toilet was a bucket that you emptied every time you used it.

Running water was a small brook outside the back door, there was a hole in the floor in one of the bedroom, and Phil thought he would repair it.

Dundalk on the south side of the border was the nearest place to get the wood, off he went on a bicycle to the wood yard order given they would cut the wood to size, “come back in two hours” said the woodman.

The bar dad went to was on the main street, in the corner sat a man taking bets on one of the horse race meeting, now dad could not resist a little flutter, ‘put it on the nose’ said he as he put the wood money on, twenty minute till the off this can go one of two ways, he loses the lot or gets drunk on the winnings, it was a taxi back with the wood a good day out and  that started fifty years of the sporting chronicle.

The hole in the floor fixed, a letter arrived that had been sent on from Barrow, it was from dad’s commanding officer offering him a full Sergeant’s promotion, if he would sign on as a regular soldier.  Because he had no job, dad thought about it, he had until his demob to think about it,  Kathleen who was just about getting used to him being there,  was not to keen on it,  she said nothing, jobs where thin on the ground.

Back at Caterrick camp with Jack and Jim, ‘what shall we do’ said Phil “I'm up for it”. said  Jack ‘well you can count me out’ said Jim ‘I have a job in Australia’. Dad and Jack went to see their commanding officer and after a chat off the record he advised them to sign on for 12 months on acting sergeants pay.

After two more weeks on leave it was off to Dortmund in Germany reporting to the regimental military police.  The last thing they expected to be was an MP. Reporting to the main police station dad was made sergeant of the guard. His job was to look after SS prisoners of war; these men were waiting to go on trial for possible war crimes.

The German language was a problem so Phil went down to the cells where he banged on the bars and shouted does anybody speak English deadly silence until a voice said I speak a little. Right what's your name? ‘Hans’ was the reply.  ‘Ok’ Hans, ‘follow me’, they went upstairs dad said ‘you will be working with me’.

In his office dad said ‘you play fare with me and I will see what I can do for you’, this started a friendship with Hans doing the office work and generally looking after dad.  Hans was not allowed out of the police station but he could cook dad’s breakfast and clean all his gear, at night Hans had to return to the cells. With Hans on board the job was easy until one day Hans asked dad if he could write a letter to his wife.

He wanted to know if dad would post it, dad being a compassionate man he agreed. Now Hans was a small inoffensive type of guy, he would have had steel rimmed spectacles in another life. Dad thought the world of Hans, when the letter was ready for posting dad was having second thoughts; it was against standing orders and as police officer.

Dad would be in serious trouble if caught! Hans gave him the letter and because of the friendship they had Phil accepted it. Before he would post it, dad asked ‘what is in it’, Hans told him it was a love letter, and he had told her he was safe but prisoner in Dortmund. 

The days passed and Hans’s amazed dad, he was speaking English perfectly, in the mornings he would cook dad’s breakfast to perfection, nothing was too much trouble boots were shining, shirts were pressed. The military police was completely different to what dad was used to, they wore a type of dress uniform and it had to be just right.

The nick name for the Royal military police is the dandies, and with Hans help dad could pass muster. One of the other Sergeants’s started to rub dad up the wrong way with remarks about dad only being an acting sergeant, one day dad turn on him and said I eat  b--s like you for breakfast, get yourself into the ring down stairs! I’ll show you how we survived in Burma.

With this the sergeant apologised saying he had no idea what he had been though, after that they became friends. Dad never allowed anybody to talk down to him again, always ready for a fight if necessary, his saying was if a fight is inevitable get the first one in and make it a good one.

With the first months out of the way Kathleen would write every week telling how much she missed him, every week he got more home sick. When he was at his lowest point thinking thing couldn't get worse, a message came though that he was required at the front desk. ‘You are heir Parkinson she asked’? ‘Yes’ miss, ‘I must give you this’, in her hand she had a piece of paper dad took it to read and there in a familiar hand writing was this is my wife can you arrange for her to see me though the window.

Quick as a flash dad put his hand on her shoulder and said I must arrest you come with me. This was in front of everybody at the front desk. The young very slim attractive blonde haired woman nearly collapsed as dad march her off to one of the interrogation cells, locking her in he set off to find Hans. Finding him was easy he was hard at work with dad paper work, ‘come with me’ he said ‘your wanted down stairs’, Hans look upset he had never been spoken to like that. Quick march you’re in for it, what have I done, you will find out, now go in there; I will be back in one hour as he unlocked the cell door. He re-locked the door putting a do not disturb sign on the door.

Germany in 1946 was still reeling from the defeat all the bombing now starvation was a real problem. The riestmark was worthless; the only way to get food was to barter with anything you had.  Everything had a value American dollars or English pound were in great demand it was possible to get things of value for next to nothing. I remember as a child thinking why has our cutlery got swastikas on it, and why do we have German cameras when nobody else has.

Dad would go out and barter cigarettes and coffee for cutlery or anything to help set up home. Hans and his wife became a regular occurrence dad would get Hans out of the police station on various excuses and booked a hotel room for him and his wife. The arrangement suited dad because Hans wife would bring all sort of things to change for pounds, with pounds she could buy food for her family, she soon became pregnant and promised that Phillip would be godfather for her first child.

Dad got leave to come back to Barrow after six months. He travelled back with all his purchases to a very happy Kathleen. Back in Barrow Kathleen had been laid off from Vickers Armstrong, throughout the war she had work on making bullets for the Vickers machine gun, then she trained as an engineer assembling engines for spitfires, 16 cylinders made up the engine each one had to be assemble by hand the crank and big ends had to be hand crafted together, precision work with extra pay.

War over and out of work, in those days the men coming back from the war were given the jobs before women. Dad’s arrival was the start of a new life for Kathleen and she had been saving for this time. With the extra dad was getting as acting sergeant and his side line they were rich. Money is not everything but when you first setup home together it makes a big difference.

Phil and Kathleen went to put their names down for one of the new Council houses being built at New Barns a district of Barrow, when applying for a council house the big question is how many children. None was the reply but we are working on it.

The day comes when its back to Germany, Barrow to Carnforth, change trains just enough time to go up the street to 93 North Rd, showing off his new uniform,  mum is in but your dad Sam is at work, he has a new job working for the water board. Sam had left the railway because of a fight with a foreman. The new job suited him he had a motor cycle with tools in a  sidecar. His job was to go out digging trenches for laying pipes. A job to keep you fit if ever there was.

Carnforth to Hull and the night boat to Hamburg then train to Dortmund. When dad got back there was no sign of Hans, ‘where’s Hans’ dad asked the duty Sergeant, gone to the tribunal, he went just after you left on leave, ’when will he be back’, ‘he won’t’ he said, when you go to the tribunal if your innocent you go free, if your guilty which they usually are, they get hung next day.

What did he do, we don't know but he must have been in trouble the SS were in charge of concentration camps, if its proved he was then there’s nothing but guilty. Hans never returned dad never found out if he was guilty or not, if he had been released he would have thought he would have been in touch.

There was a child in Germany that should be grateful for the way dad treated his or hers dad and mum. After this dad was even more home sick and put in for a transfer back to Catterrick, once back in Catterick dad put in for a quick demob.

 

Dads medals left to right 1939-1945 star   Pacific Star.  Burma Star. Defence medal 1939- 1945 service medal-tn

Dad’s Medals left to right:-

1939-1945 star,   Pacific Star,  Burma Star, Defence medal 1939- 1945 service medal

 

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Next Step

 

 

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[My Dad and Me] [Training for War] [Voyage] [Singapore] [Escape] [Columbo] [Bombay] [Swimming Tanks] [Ireland] [Next Step] [Sister Christine]

 

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