Sketch by Jack Chalker

Courage to Endure

Courage to Endure - Post War

 

When trouble comes and you feel insecure

Have faith in oneself and endure,

To face ones problems head on

Your strength of character becomes strong,

The joy of achievement at the end of the day

That's where you will find the answer lay.

 

11-07-2004 01;25;45PM

After being discharged from the army, we were free of everything, many just spent their money on anything they fancied after all we were not only free but we were rich!

Nearly four years back pay, some were not so lucky on returning hone, when they went to war they left behind a wife and family and on their return they were shocked to find another man in their home and in addition an increase in family.

We had nearly six months leave and after all the hard work we'd done to suddenly have nothing to do became a bore to me and I'm sure this must have been the case with many others. The ex-sergeant of my signal platoon was a Policeman in the West Suffolk Constabulary stationed at Bury St Edmunds and was one of the few guests when Win and I was married at the registry office in Stowmarket Suffolk. He got me interested in joining the Police force, so I applied and was accepted starting right away. I was posted to Bury St Edmunds Police Station to await a vacancy at a Police training centre in Mansfield, near Nottingham, with the West Riding Police force. In the meantime as I had to sleep at the station.

I had the job of looking after the prisoners and attending duties at the council offices. I used to walk through the town in the late morning after looking after the prisoners, this was something I dreaded, I was always afraid something might happen or someone would ask me where some street was and I hadn't a clue! However I was sent to Forest Town near Mansfield to start my career as a Police officer and found it very strict, it was work all the time. Perhaps I was better off than some, who liked their pint of beer (I was not a drinker), whereas people from the north liked their pint. When the days training was over we had our evening meal at 7 pm, nobody was allowed to leave the table until the chief constable had finished and left. Then we had to re-write all that days instruction in our neat books, this took some time, those who wanted a drink found there was no pub nearby and we had to be in by ten o'clock. I did manage to get home some weekends to see Win it was costly but we had only just got married.

Police

I am second row from back seven along

After out training was over and I managed to pass all the exams, perhaps it was just luck as I studied more closely the things that effected the country, as I knew I was going to be a country Bobby.

When I returned to Bury St Edmunds the chief asked me if I would like to take on a beat in the country, there was a house with it and I would not do a probation period in the town. I accepted this gladly and we set up home at Semer near Hadleigh. This was great for me because my father had had a stroke and was very ill at the time, this meant that I could on my day off with permission of course visit him. The house was not like they are in today's world, it was solid and dry but no gas or electricity no toilet and no water, there was a pump some distance away and I had to collect the water in two buckets and cart them up to the house, but for all this it was a home and we did have a telephone! It was a busy day when Win did the washing, which was in an old brick copper where you lit a fire underneath to heat the water. The beat was a very large one and covered many miles and villages, pubs closed at 10 pm in those days and I could not be outside them all every night. The hours were long and no such thing as overtime in those days. One had to try and take time off when circumstances would allow, but this never seemed to happen as nobody knew which day you had off, so there were always calls. The money was 4-50 a week and we found it a task to make ends meet. There were extras like 5p a week for your torch, 15p a week for boots and a 1 a quarter for your cycle.

The strangest thing happened on my beat because the army were still looking after German and Italian POWs. There were over 250 prisoners working on the farms, as the war was over, the soldiers had left their depot and from then on I had the problem of the POWs who were always doing a bunk. The phone would ring during the night reporting a pow missing, which meant I had to take action and go out searching. The tables had turned and I was now on the other side of the fence. With my father being so ill and the pressure the job put on me, I decided to call it a day and returned home to Ipswich. Win didn't mind as we lived three doors away from where we had first met, so we could both see our parents more often. I got my old job back at Ransomes as a turner working nights but with being shut in made me feel like a prisoner again, so I began to look for something else and was soon in for a shock!

Knowing all about tools I applied for a job at a tool factors and was told although I knew the job they had to have someone they could rely on being on the spot every day. Due to my past of suffering they could not take the risk. The next was a bus conductor but here again it was pointed out to me that there were no toilets and this they thought was something that most ex pows needed . I then went for a job as a bakers rounds man but the lady who owned the business was very sorry but her customers might not like it, as a lot of pows had come home with all kinds of diseases. After all this I tried for a van drivers job, this was different with no trouble, but then the manager pointed out, I shouldn't be applying for this as I should have a better outlook. The last application was for an ambulance driver, as I had passed all the first aid courses in the police, no luck however, I was too young and they would be glad to take me on when I reached the age around 40.

So I had found out the hard way that being a Fepow had its disadvantages, I still had to put up with being shut in the engineering workshop after all, one consolation being, I had made it home and there wasn’t a Jap in sight.

The years passed on we had to share a council house which most people did in those days, if you were a childless couple. However we were lucky to hear about a property in the village of Bramford where I went to school. It was the old Police Station where a few years previous I had been to see the officer on joining the Police Force. We hadn't any money and the property was for sale at 620, but fortune was on our side, the estate agent was the transport officer in my old battalion and a Fepow. He kindly agreed to loan us the deposit until we could pay him back, I did this by selling my 20% war pension back to the government for 60, enough to start buying our first house.

In the early days this had been a shop, the front window being just as it was, it a not long before the idea came to start up a hardware shop, which we did. During this period there were many travellers calling at shops to sell their products, one sold paints and hardware equipment,  poor man tried to get a large order but all we had was 5 to play with. We bought one or two things, but managed to persuade him to let us have a few empty paint tins and boxes to put on the shelves to make it look more business like. We did well and it was not long before I gave up work and did cycle repairs and welding.

Post Office bill head

Our business bill head

I got some work from a local factory building cycle wheels, they supplied the materials and I made up the wheels to their requirements, for 25p a wheel. This doesn't sound much now but in those days we sold new cycles for 2. 75. I made up our income by doing odd welding jobs on the farms anything that came along to earn a living.

The village Post Office was run by a spinster and she died suddenly from a heart attack. As the property was rented the post office put the post office out for anyone to apply for, of course you needed the suitable premises to run a Post Office. I and others applied, but as they preferred ex-service men and had been in the Police Force, I went in with a good chance and it paid off.

It was a very busy Post Office we soon had two full time assistants plus two post ladies, the mail had to be sorted and then delivered every morning at 5 am. In those days, post was even delivered on Xmas morning, you kept going until all the mail was cleared. During this period the first Japanese lady and her son arrived in the village, some people suggested I should not entertain them, but this was something I had to ignore they were the new generation and it was the war criminals who were the ones to be punished, so after a time it all settled down.

The village of Bramford expanded with new houses and bungalows and the Post Office and shop really got busy, I was then on the Parish council and was in the line of fire. For nearly 8 years I listened to all the problems and complaints but then decided to sell as competition was then starting to get fierce and it was the best time to move on.

A farmer, who was a good customer and friend, had a pair of cottages on a farm which were in a bit of a state, windows broken, front door off etc., but there was electricity and water. What he wanted really was for someone to occupy one, just to be there as a form of security, he said would I like to occupy one instead of buying a house. We would have to put it in order and in return could live there as long as we liked, rent free, just pay the rates which were only 8p a week at that time as there was no sanitation or rubbish collection. As we knew him to be genuine and giving it a lot of thought, and decided to take up his offer,  it was just the job being in the country. We soon got the place in order and our two children had a great time running around the fields having the place all to themselves.

I was working for an ex German pow in the scrap metal trade now, at first as manager and later became a director, travelling at times to Bremen, where we sold the scrap. It was quite a large firm with an average of 40 men, who were always busy loading the ships at Ipswich docks for Germany. We tried to sell a large consignment to Spain but unfortunately trade took a dip and  we got caught out with a lower price than was agreed so the firm went down.

My next job took me to a firm in Rotherham and we set up business in a railway yard where I was the main director supplying Sheerness Steel. The steel firm became interested in buying the business as long as I remained the manager. I accepted the position as I was then 60 years old with only a few more working years left. Its MD was an American who was really alive and always got what he wanted and the salary was very good.

My immediate director was a golf enthusiast and during my employment, the world championship were being played down on the South coast, Win and I were asked to attend. We both thought this strange as we didn't know anything about golf, but we were staying in a first class hotel. However the morning went well, a lot of walking and then it came to lunch, a really top affair put on in American style, even the champagne flowed freely. It happened that some of the guests were Japanese, in Britain to do business, which of all things was carbons for electric furnaces, the same carbons which I  made whilst a POW in Japan. Knowing all about the business, we were seated in amongst the Japanese and I found it was my job to keep them entertained as I knew the main subject, carbons! It was a mixture of English and Japanese, from then on the golf was forgotten, it was business all the way, so ended our experience and we never saw any more golf.

When you were a Fepow in Japan

Japs didn’t think you were any kind of man,

You came home in a bad way

No work and no pay,

Turning your back on all that strife

You made a home for your children and wife

With love and care you began to live

Through sacrifices you had so much to give,

Now the years are rushing by

You do your best, and try,

To live a life of content and peace

To the end of time in quiet release.

 

The End

 

 

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