He enlisted in the Cheshire 22 Regiment on 24 January, 1934. While in the army, he took up athletics and won a running medal in 1935. He was stationed in Whitley Bay for a number of months, where he met and married Florence Ross, daughter of Arthur Ross, the town’s main florist. He was then posted to Northern Ireland, thence to North Africa, the Sudan, Khartoum as a senior NCO. He served in Malta, then Egypt and Palestine and was then sent on to India before the war, including the North West Frontier. In 1937, he ran the mile in 4mins 26 seconds in the Bombay District Athletics.
Dad (bottom, 2nd from left) Bombay 1937
Dad climbing in Kasauhl, India
Onboard trooptrain, Sudan
The war was imminent and he was posted back to Sudan from there joined the landings in Sicily, where he was wounded in the shoulder by shrapnel. He saw friends and officers die, but rarely spoke of his experiences. When recovered, he joined the invasion of Italy and got as far as Rome
After the war, in 1946 he demobbed and trained as a painter and decorator and became an expert in this trade, in the days when DIY was virtually unheard of.
In July 1948 they adopted me, when I was a few weeks old.
Dad and infant me on the beach
Dad used to work away from home on various painting contracts, notably one of them being at Spadeadam, Cumbria when the UK worked on the Bluestreak missile, which was later aborted. He came home at weekends on his motorbike; I recalled sometimes in winter when he would be blue with cold on arrival. Eventually, he found a job on the council as a painter and decorator until he retired.
In the early 1970s, Mum and Dad bought a guest house near the sea-front of Whitley Bay, a dream they’d long held, and made a reasonable success of it, until she was taken by cancer at the age of 58.
Jen and I lived in Hampshire, as I was in the Navy, but Dad continued to live in the guest-house. After a number of lonely years, he remarried, to Kit, a local lady. When Kit died, we brought Dad south to a home (1996) and it seemed for the first time in my life I actually saw a lot of him. Yet still he would not reminisce about his time in the Army.
He died on 10 April, 2000 - 'he ran a good race'. If he’d lived until today, he’d be 102. Rest in peace, Dad.