Sketch by Jack Chalker

Life of Riley

This story is not Public Domain. Permission must be obtained before any part of this story is copied or used.

Back in England - 1947



At Southampton, an ambulance was waiting on the dockside for him as he disembarked. An officer came to greet him with a message from Winston Churchill, thanking him and welcoming him back home to England. He then asked Dennis questions regarding the officers conduct while ‘out there’. When Dennis started to berate certain officers, the interviewing officer cut him dead and walked away.

He was put aboard the ambulance and they headed off for Queen Alexandra Hospital in Hookwood, Surrey. The journey was interrupted with a stop at a country pub for a long…. long….. too long awaited…… pint of English ale.

At the hospital, Dennis was told that as he lived near Chilwell Ordinance Depot, they said he would be fit enough to travel home. (?)

Bear in mind, he had not picked up anything heavier than a knife and fork since leaving the “hospital” in Batu- Lintang. He still felt weak and needed his muscle mass restoring. Dennis complained and remarked he didn’t even have a uniform. He was given a pair of khaki trousers and a kit bag.

He was taken to the station and had to stand up for half the journey as the train was packed solid with returning troops. He really should have been given some sort of identification to say what his condition was. But being the proud character he was, he stood in silence and thought of home ‘till a seat became vacant.

On arriving at Nottingham Midland station at 10.30pm, he was so shattered by the journey and the effort of carrying his kit bag along the platform that he had to sit down. Dragging his kit bag closer, he soon fell asleep stretched out on the platform bench.

After a while a policeman came to him and asked if he was ok and after a little chat, left him to sleep till the morning. When he awoke he thought that his mother ought to be informed of his return. He phoned a neighbour and asked if they would go to the house and tell her to expect him within the next hour.

Finally, at 10.30am he was home after nearly five years away, Dennis got out of the taxi and he saw his dad at the door. But the first person to run out and greet him with hugs and kisses was Mrs Smith, his next door neighbour.

His dad just walked over to him and shook his hand. Finding he had not enough money to pay his taxi fare, he asked his dad for some cash. He shook his head and turned away saying he didn’t have any as he went back into the house.

Mrs Smith came to the rescue and paid the taxi driver.

 “Welcome home Dennis,” she said.

Walking into the house he hugged his now ill mother, who, in Dennis’ words, greeted him ‘in her own way’. It appeared she was having some kind of depression or mental disorder. Then he looked at his dad at the kitchen table, counting his money!

In his bedroom he found all his dresser drawers and wardrobe empty. His dad had sold EVERYTHING he had possessed except one book. This book, “Power and Speed”, had been bought by Dennis over a period of weeks as he could not afford to buy it outright. He had bought it months before he had enlisted and it was brand new, but now it was ragged and torn due to his dad hawking it around the pubs trying to sell it.

Dennis flopped down onto his bed disgusted. He had been home an hour but couldn’t say anything as he was so weak and ill.                                                







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[Life of Riley] [Early Days] [Royal Artillery] [Empress of Japan] [SS Narkunda] [Chaos] [Escape] [Sumatra] [Action Stations] [Pladjoe] [Palembang] [Leaving Oesthaven] [Java] [Japanese at Batavia] [Tanjong Priok Camp] [Back to Singapore] [Batu-Lintang Camp] [Glimmer of Hope] [Liberation September 1945] [Going Home] [Back in England] [Mystery Picture] [National Memorial Arboretum]


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