Sketch by Jack Chalker

Chapter XXI

Back to Geordieland

At last land was sighted which must have been Lands End in Cornwall as we were heading for Liverpool docks, the port we had sailed, from four years beforehand, and we were all excited about putting our feet on Blighty again, home at last as the ship pulled into the harbour and all the ships and craft on the waters sounded off with their hooters in a chorus of “Welcome home”.

Four years ago I left Liverpool weighing ten stone three pounds and when I was weighed on the dockside as I returned, I tipped the scales at five stones nine pounds. Four years abroad with three and a half of then in a Japanese prisoner of war camp had cost me four and a half-stone of flesh and blood.

The preliminaries were brief on the quayside and we were quickly transported by chartered buses to a camp at Huyton and after a nights stay we were given our train passes, ration cards and fifty pounds and transported to the station on our way back to Geordie-land, and what a thrill it was to see Gateshead, then the Tyne Bridge and at last the Central Station.

Tommys Mum02

Tommy's Mam outside 49 Oswin Avenue, Forest Hall after the war

My happiness was dashed when I saw my mother standing on the station waiting for me, as I had left a beautiful looking woman with jet black hair and fresh complexion, but here a little white-haired, wrinkled and drawn faced Mother flung her arms around me in a flood of tears to welcome me home at last.

This war had certainly reeked havoc with my Mother who had had more than one person’s worries and troubles with a daughter and four sons, killed, wounded, injured or a prisoner.

Home again was great and I put on weight to fill out my ill-fitting uniform and when malaria recurred, I shivered and sweated between beautiful clean white sheets with a doctor calling each day and cared for by a Mother who knew no bounds to make me comfortable, quite unlike the jungle treatment of the not so long ago.

I had the best Christmas in 1945 that I could ever remember, and soon after I, with other prisoners were sent to a rehabilitation centre at Washington, County Durham, where we were minutely examined by specialist doctors and put on special medical and diet treatment and I met up with an old friend Bill Davies who had also survived the horrors of Thailand.

It was at this camp where my luck was highlighted as I became friendly with a beautiful girl, Frances, who fortunately for me consented after a couple of years courtship to marry me, but while at this camp I had an attack of dysentery and Malaria and was sent to a hospital in Hexham where I remained for six weeks intensive treatment, and whatever they pumped into me with needles like crow-bars, I didn’t know but I do know I have never again suffered those terrible diseases.

In February 1946 I was sent to York to be de-mobbed and there received the usual de-mob suit, trilby, shoes and underwear and a ration card and coupons for further clothing, and for those not old enough to remember, it was necessary to produce some of those coupons when you bought any clothing, as well as money.

Having joined the army on February 15th 1939, I was standing on York railway station waiting to return to Civvy Street, a free man, on February 15th 1946, seven years of my life wasted, but with experiences I hope no other human being will ever need to go through.

In the post one morning as I lay in bed enjoying breakfast came a letter, which I treasure, and it was from King George VI welcoming me home and tendering his sympathy for those who had not made the return and wishing me well for the future.

It is nearly thirty-seven years since I joined the Amy and nearly thirty years since I was demobbed but four of those years will haunt me as long as I live, four years of living hell!!!


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[The White Flag] [Chapter I] [Chapter II] [Chapter III] [Chapter IV] [Chapter V] [Chapter VI] [Chapter VII] [Chapter VIII] [Chapter IX] [Chapter X] [Chapter XI] [Chapter XII] [Chapter XIII] [Chapter XIV] [Chapter XV] [Chapter XVI] [Chapter XVII] [Chapter XVIII] [Chapter XIX] [Chapter XX] [Chapter XXI] [Chapter XXII]


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