Click here to return to the main site entry page
Click here to return to the previous page
Autobiography, 2012
Clifford Timpson

I was born on the 14th November 1921, at 7, York Road Rushden and christened Clifford Frank, Clifford after Cliff Richard and Frank after my mother's sister's husband who lived in Australia. I was a second child, my sister Gwendoline being born some 18 months earlier.

Oddly, for reasons unknown, my sister rarely spoke to me and it was only after returning from war service, that a normal brother and sister relationship started. Whether she felt some loss of attention when I was born or whether I was a quite an objectionable child, I will never know.

My father, George was the eldest of 7 boys and on the birth of the seventh, my grandfather, who desperately wanted a daughter, was reputed to have said 'drown it'. Father was a foreman clicker and leather buyer for Alfred Sargent and shortly before retirement was made a Director. Alfred Sargent was one of 41 Shoe Manufacturers operating in Rushden at the time, a remarkable number considering the population of the town was only around 14,000. My mother, Edith Lilian originated from Kettering and was all that a mother should be.

I started my education at Newton Road Infants School, and my earliest memory was related to the first term at this School. I clearly remember that the letters of the alphabet, in lower case, were inscribed across the top of the blackboard. The teacher, Miss Childs, would point to the various characters with a long cane and the pupils had to respond with the appropriate sound. Multiplication tables from 1 to 12 were learnt by rote at a very early age. Almost without exception, children came from working class families, yet despite this, I maintain to this day, that no child left that school without being able to read and write.

Clearly remembered also were the occasions when pupils were ushered into the playground to watch the rigid airships, R100 & R101, based 16 miles away at Cardington, pass overhead during test flights. Arrival of the news of the fatal crash of the R101 at Beauvais in France is still indelibly imprinted on my memory.

York Road was representative of the vast majority of roads in Rushden with rows of terraced houses. Although electricity arrived in Rushden around the beginning of WW1, most houses were not converted from gas until the 30's. The majority of houses had no bathrooms. 'Bathnights' were family affairs, traditionally held on a Friday. Only one room in the house was heated and this by open coal fire. Water was heated in a copper situated in the kitchen and transferred by a large saucepan into a large tin bath placed in front of the fire.

Streets were lit by gas lamps and they would be turned on and off by a lamplighter who arrived on his bicycle, at the appointed times, with his long cane to pull down the chain which activated the lamp. Children played safely in the streets, even on dark evenings, no street crime and little vehicular traffic to worry about. Games included whip and top, marbles, hoops, 'fag cards', amongst others. Milk was delivered by horse and cart, as were most things and should the horses decide to deposit their waste in the road, there would be keen competition to be first to fetch a spade and shovel to remove it for soil enhancement.

Monday evenings differed from others as this was band practice night. Rushden Town Band — one of four excellent brass bands in the town — had their band room in Manton Road which ran parallel to and at the rear of York Road. I regret that I was too young to appreciate the sounds which filled the evening air.

I have to confess that I fell madly in love with a girl living two doors away — Joan Shoesmith. I did propose to her and she accepted only for her to renege at a later date. I was 8 years old at the time. Joan eventually married Stanley Bates, the younger brother of H. E., the literary giant. The Bates family lived quite close and H.E.'s mother and mine, were close friends.

In 1929, my father had a detached house built on a plot of land in Wentworth Road, which was owned by my grandfather. Three reception, three bedrooms, kitchen, scullery, bath room and toilets up and down stairs but the joy of all joys was the house being wired for electricity. No more gas mantles to light, and these mantles if touched accidentally in play, would descend in a mini snow storm and this would merit a sharp 'box of the ears.'

My Father was Divisional Superintendent of the Rushden St. John's Brigade and I was often made to attend their weekly meetings so that the members could use me for bandaging practice. Children were constantly knocking the door to be treated for cuts and bruises.

At the age of 11, I left Newton Road School for Kettering Grammar School. This entailed catching the 8.25a.m. train from Rushden, changing at Wellingborough and joining the train from London , which always arrived promptly at 08.40a.m. Returning, I caught the 5.05p.m. London train, arriving home around 6.0.p.m. The journey home gave one the opportunity of getting a little homework done. Homework comprised 4 subjects, each supposedly of 30mins but usually these took a lot longer. In 1937, I took and passed the Oxford Certificate Examination gaining distinctions in only two subjects - Maths and Scripture, insufficient to matriculate. I missed 7 weeks schooling in the term of the Exam due to hospitalisation at Northampton where I underwent an appendectomy and complications followed. I like to think that my exam result would have been better but for this break.

End of 1937 and the time to find employment. John Whites, the largest men’s shoe manufacturer in the country, were advertising for a school leaver to join the office staff. It was their custom to employ one male and one female school leaver each year and I applied. I was called for an interview and was somewhat nonplussed to find around a dozen other applicants in reception. Interviewing was done by Mr. White himself, together with the Company Secretary, Mr. Len Bradshaw. My application was read and the first question was put to me by Mr. Bradshaw. 'I see you gained a distinction in Scripture, why don't you train to be a minister?' I thought this was his attempt at a joke and dutifully laughed, but he was quite serious — he was a fervent supporter of the Plymouth Bretheren or similar cult. On reflection, this flippancy on my part could so easily have resulted in disaster. Mr. White, noting my surname, asked if I was related to Herbert Timpson who did his home decorating and I told him that he was my uncle. I received notification through the post that I had been successful and was to report to the Newton Road factory branch office in a week's time. I am quite convinced that my success was solely due to this family connection and not through any academic ability.

Working hours were officially from 8.30a.m. until 5.30p.m. Monday to Friday and 8.30a.m. until 12.30p.m. on a Saturday. It was however, usually between 6.00p.m. and 6.30p.m. before being released. Holidays consisted of 1 week at August, 2 days at Christmas, 2 at Easter and 1 at Whitsun. For this, I was paid the princely sum of 10 shillings gross per week, netting around 8s. 4d. after stoppages. My mother took 7 shillings for 'keep' and I retained the rest.

During the first year, most of my time was taken up with extending bottom stock costings but was at the beck and call of any of the other office staff, to run errands etc.

On my 17th birthday I was called into Mr. Bradshaw's office and was told that I would be receiving a little extra in my pay packet on the coming Friday. He was true to his word - it was 'a little' - a shilling. In 1938/9, a new factory for the production of Goodyear Welted Shoes was under construction at Lime Street. I was sent there, a month or so before completion, to run the office and to take on the job of 'Progress Chaser' when production got under way.

Prior to that happening I had to check against invoices, the mountain of machinery, upper and bottom leather, grindery etc. etc. which arrived daily. Even when production commenced and extra time was taken up with progress chasing, and dealing with export documentation, it was some weeks before two extra staff were given me to take on these outside tasks. I was working from 8.30a.m.until 10.30p.m.every day - you were required to work until the jobs on hand were completed. However, I was well rewarded, given a further shilling p.w. the following November!

Leisure Activites 1937-1951

Excluding the time spent in the R.A. F. most of my leisure time during this period was taken up with helping to create a football club, a football league and playing football.

A couple of years ago I was asked by Eric Fowell of the Rushden History Society if I would contribute an article for their website on the subject of Junior football, as it was in pre and postwar Rushden. This I dutifully did and it is available on their site. Fortunately this excuses me going over this again and should you wish, you can refer to it by Googling:-

Rushden & District History Society, click on 'Main Menu' then 'People & Family' followed by 'Clifford Timpson'. There are also, on this site, photos of the teams with which I was connected. They were also asking if anyone could name the players, which of course I was able to do.

Sport was enjoyed during my period in the R.A.F. when and where it was possible. Little to report there apart from two incidents. After my 3+ years in the Middle East. I returned to England and was posted to a Radar Station in Lincolnshire. On the agenda was a cricket match, R.A.F. v Army and R.A.F. stations were circularised for names to be put forward to make up the R.A.F. side. A fellow Radar Operator and good friend, Jack Chew, together with my name, were put forward by our Station, and we were both accepted into the side. Jack was a professional cricketer pre-war and played in the Lancashire League. He was also a professional footballer with Burnley and after the war played for Burnley in the 947 Wembley Cup Final. We opened the batting and put on 187 runs at which point Jack was out for exactly 100. First wicket down was a Squadron Leader who, with the very first ball, called me for an impossible single and I was run out by a country mile. As I passed him on my way to the pavilion he said 'sorry old boy' - stupid b-----d!

A return match had been arranged and for some unknown reason, Jack did not participate. On arrival at the ground, we were given the comforting news that the Army had Dick Pollard in their side, Lancashire's opening fast bowler. Fortunately, the Army had the good sense not to open the bowling with him or it would have been a very short match. I had made quite a few runs when the ball was thrown to Pollard and my legs immediately turned to jelly. However, the first five balls produced six runs, three twos, which included a streaky snick head high through the slips to third man and I decided it was all a piece of veritable cake. The 6th ball was a slow one, which I completely misread and I dollied the ball back to him After the war he was selected to play for England against the Australia in the 3rd Test at Manchester in 1948. Famous names in each side - Washbrook, Edrich Compton & Bedser for England and Hassett, Lindwall & Don Bradman for Australia. When Pollard batted he decapitated Sidney Barnes fielding at silly mid off and put him in hospital. When Australia batted, Bradman was lbw to Pollard for 7. Now records do not show who the 7 runs were scored off, but I think it can be assumed they were not all scored off Pollard. This proves statistically and without a shadow of a doubt, that I was a better batsman than Bradman!

The War Years.

During WW1 my Father was in the Royal Naval Sick Berth and during the ensuing peace years, was on the Reserve. At the outbreak of WW2 he was immediately called up and was away from home for the duration. As a result, I had to take on some of his duties, gardening, chopping sticks etc.

At the Lime Street factory, production of G.W. shoes for the home market was suspended and completely turned over to making footwear for the armed forces. No need for a Progress Chaser so I was transferred to Head Office. This was the one action taken by Mr. Bradshaw for which I was duly grateful, as I came into contact with Gwen, who later became my wife.

During air raid warnings out of office hours, 1 was required to return to Head Office and take on fire-watch duties until the all-clear was sounded. On occasions, most of the night was spent there, but back to work at 8.30a.m was nevertheless, expected. In response to an appeal on the radio by Anthony Eden in May 1940, I was one of 250,000 people who, within 24 hours of the broadcast, registered at the police station to join the Local Defence Volunteers - later to be known as the Home Guard. My recollection of the LDV was its similarity to T.V's Dad's Army. We were issued with uniforms and rifle drill was performed with broom handles. This did stand me in good stead however, during basic training with the R.A.F.

Towards the end of 1940 I volunteered for the R.A.F. This was not due to patriotism, but to avoid the possible call up into the Army. A medical examination followed at Northampton and I knew the eyesight test might be a problem, but here I was very lucky. I was in a queue next to a schoolmate, who, through a crack in the door of the test room, he could see the board. He told me what the letters on the bottom line were and 1 memorised these backwards and forwards. When tested, I rattled off these letters and was passed A1. Had I been asked to read the larger letters, a line or two above, I would have failed. I reported to Padgate for attestation and was issued with my Service Number and returned home to await call-up. This arrived early in 1941 and a month's 'square bashing' on the prom, at Blackpool followed. R.A.F. Cranwell provided a month's radar operator training and my first posting was to a 'Chain Home Low' Station at Walton-on-the Naze. After only 4 weeks came a posting to R.A.F. Orby, one of the first six G.C.I. (ground control interception) Stations established and only just set up. The purpose was to intercept enemy aircraft at night by directing Beaufighters to within 2 miles, at the right height and overtaking speed. The Beau, would then complete the interception with the aid of the onboard radar, with usually a positive result.

In September of the same year, I was posted to the Middle East and boarded the troopship S.S. Strathaird at Gourock in Scotland.

An aficionado (Mel) of P. & O. liners, currently living in Australia, set up a website which amongst other things, published experiences of those who travelled on the 'Strathsisters'.during the 40's, 50's and 60's. There are over 1,500 blogs (is this what they are called?), mostly by emigres who went out to Oz on a £10 ticket. I think my account is the only one that goes back to the early 40's. My entry - for what it is worth - appears on page 10 , so there is no need for me to repeat it here.
The site is:-
www. rivercityfm. com/a u ~strathsisters/strathaird/index. htm

On arrival at Port Tewfik, I moved to a transit camp at Aboukir on the Nile delta adjacent to Alexandria. Personnel to establish the first mobile G.C.I. Station abroad were selected of which I was one.

The unit, 826 A.M.E.S. (Air Ministry Experimental Station) was set up in the desert at Tahag, arriving on 19th January 1942. It comprised of 3 Officers, ( A Technical C.O., an Adjutant, a Controller), 21 Radar Operators (3 watches of 7), 3 Radar mechanics, 3 'Cooks', 2 Motor Transport Drivers/Mechanics, 1 Medical Orderly, 1 Orderly Room clerk and 2 or 3 who were engaged on general duties.

Food could be described as boring — slices of corned beef with raw onion for tiffin and heated mashed corned beef and yams for dinner. This 'menu' prevailed day in, week in, month in — no potatoes or butter. Chatties were a godsend. These earthen vessels originating from India, held just a few pints to several gallons according to size. They were filled with water, placed out in the sun and the water quickly became extremely cold.

The Station became operational on 5th February and Beaufighters from 89 Squadron came under our control. The Squadron C.O. was Wing Commander George Stainforth, a pre war Schneider Trophy Cup winner and the first person in the world to fly at over 400m.p.h. On the night of 2nd/3rd March saw our first success when a Heinkel 111 was intercepted and shot down I did the 'dead reckoning' for this interception.

The following is an extract form 'Beaufighter Aces of World War 2' by Andrew Thomas:-

'At Edku, after a long wait, No 89 Squadron enjoyed its first success on the 2nd March 1942, when Squadron Leader Derek Paine shot down a He 111 for the R.A.F.'s first radar controlled victory over Egypt. The second was not long in coming, for Flying Officer 'Moose' Fumerton downed another, although he was slightly wounded by return fire. Its successes grew so that by the end of the war it was to rank as the second highest scoring night fighter squadron with 141 victories. Squadron Leader Paine became an ace.'

Pilots made frequent visits to our Unit, particularly when they had achieved a kill. On two occasions I accepted invitations to visit the Squadron at Abu Sueir.

On the first, the day following his success, Derek Paine took me up in his Beau, and promptly engaged in a few aerobatics to impress a girl friend(?) who he had left behind on the tarmac - quite an experience. The second time I was taken up by George Stainforth, who a month or two later, was killed, only 2 miles from Base, a great loss to the Squadron.

One notable interception happened on 27th July. A Junkers 88 was making a beeline for our camp but fortunately was intercepted and shot down only a half a mile from us. Coming off watch I went out to the crash and secured the Junkers manufacturer's name plate as a souvenir. However our C.O. got to hear of this and I had to surrender it, so that 'it could be sent to Intelligence at Cairo'. I suspect it found its way into his kitbag.

One year and ten months were spent at this site. On the whole it was an enjoyable time. Most of the technical staff were ex-teachers and our leisure time was mainly taken up by playing contract bridge and chess.

On 6th October 1943, all 826 technical staff were replaced and we moved to a large transit camp at Helwan, adjacent to the Pyramids and Sphinx. A colleague and I took the opportunity to visit them and we both climbed to the top of the Great Pyramid and took photos there. The following day, our kitbags were stored and we were issued with sten guns and 40lb packs. The Unit was to join other forces and take part in the invasion of Rhodes which was heavily defended by the Germans. In reparation, our new C.O. together with stop watch, had us out night after night and in complete darkness we practiced bringing our radar equipment up to operational readiness. My job was to assemble the aerial arrays, not the easiest task in the dark. Fortunately for us, the Germans invaded another of the Dodecanese islands Cos and quickly overcame British resistance. With the loss of the airfield on Cos, the Rhodes invasion was aborted.

Whilst in transit, one is virtually unemployed which does not go down too well with the hierarchy. I was detailed to give lectures to newly arrived Radar Operators from England on the subject of aerial arrays and their application in determining the height of incoming hostiles.

On 6th December 1943, our Unit was reassembled and we were told that we were to Take part in an exciting and secretive mission but no details were given We left Helwan with 9 vehicles, but as we had only two M.T. drivers, another seven had to be found. Only two other personnel had had any driving experience so five others who had never driven, were pressed into service and I was one of them. I was given a 3 ton Crossley with a Water Bowser trailer. Having no syncromesh gear box, gear changes were rather noisy affairs and these changes were accompanied by jeers from the chaps in the rear.


Dec. 10 Left Helwan and crossed over the Suez Canal (115 miles)

Dec. 11 Crossed the Sinai desert (177 miles)

Dec. 12 Through Gaza and staged 40 miles from Tel Aviv. (126 miles)

Dec. 13 Over mountains, past Lake Tiberias, Sea of Galilee and into Lebanon (160 Miles)

Dec. 14 To Homs (156 miles)

Dec. 15 Arrived at Aleppo in Syria on Turkish border, (124 miles)

The nature of our mission was then explained to us. For some months Roosevelt & Churchill has put pressure on Turkey to join the war on the Allies' side, a move which Turkey continually resisted. They did eventually permit the entry of a small number of technicians (referred to in documents as 'infiltrators), whose purpose was to prepare airfields for the arrival of R.A.F. planes and establish a G.C.I. Station at Smyrna (now known as Izmir). Passport applications had to be filled in by each of us and sent off to our Embassy in Damascus. When filling in 'Occupation', we were told to enter our peace-time occupation provided that this was compatible with being in a neutral country - otherwise enter 'Government Official'. I think every man jack of us used the latter description. Civilian clothes were supplied by Marks & Spencer and hurriedly flown out to us. We retained our underwear after all service markings had been erased. Grey flannel trousers, sports coats, pork pie hats, trilbies and cheap looking suitcases were distributed and as we had not been individually measured, any part of this clothing which fitted, was purely accidental. We returned to our tents, changed into these civvies, emerged and the sight was by far the funniest I have ever witnessed. Whilst the colours and patterns of the clothing were varied, we were all issued with identical overcoats, which destroyed the appearance of anonymity. It would have been quite obvious to any enemy agents who might be watching our departure at the Aleppo station, that we were a para-military force going into Turkey. Entry into Turkey on 28th December was by rail but due to the low height of the railway tunnels, each equipment cabin had to be removed from its vehicle chassis by cranes and both parts loaded on to flat rail wagons.

Our stay in Turkey was short lived. Turkey decided not to join the Allies. 'Operation Saturn' was closed down and we returned to Helwan.

It transpired that Germany was always well informed as to negotiations taking part between Turkey and the Allies. The valet to our Ambassador at the British Embassy at Ankara was Germany's highest paid spy. He was daily photographing secret documents and passing them on to German Agents. Fact stranger than fiction? This was well researched by American author Richard Wires and published in his book 'The Cicero Spy Affair' which I will enclose.' There is a small reference to our role, on page 102

After a short stay, I was posted to a Transit Camp in Algiers and was transported there via Naples, by the Swedish Flagship 'Nieuw Amsterdam' 11, completed in 1938. My posting, together with another radar operator, was from Algiers to Corsica and this was, by far, the most enjoyable period of my Service career. The sea trip to Ajaccio was by a French fishing boat; a hairy journey made in atrocious weather conditions. 11,001 A.M.E.S. was one of two Stations set up after the Germans had evacuated the island.

On our arrival, as none of the 3 watches had N.C.O's, we were each given charge of one. There were no British planes on the island, so interceptions were carried out with American night fighters. I am afraid that our success rate could not be compared with that of 826 A.M.E.S., too often in the course of an interception, a pilot would report 'R.T. trouble,' break off and return to base.

June 4th 1944 will live long in my memory. I was in telephone contact with the American Fighter Base, when news came through to them that Rome had fallen. They commenced flying personnel over on sightseeing trips and I was invited to join them. Coming off watch at 8.0 a.m., two of us walked down to the 'drome, hitched a lift in a Mitchell fighter bomber and duly landed at Rome airport. The next 24 hours were spent cramming in as much sightseeing as possible - Vatican, Coliseum, Forum etc. etc. We can rightly claim to be the first Brits to enter Rome. Fortunately, we were able to hitch back to Corsica in time to report for the 1.00p.m. shift, otherwise a Court Martial would surely have followed, on charges of leaving the country without permission. Incidentally, the American General, Mark Clark should have been shot for disobeying General Alexander's express instructions, not to enter Rome but to circle to the North and cut off any German retreat. In ignoring this order, the Germans escaped capture and the war in Italy was prolonged unnecessarily. As the Germans were pushed out of Italy, our Unit together with equipment were taken to Naples by an 'American Landing Ship Tank'. Into transit once more the opportunity was taken to visit the Naples Opera House and I saw 5 different operas in 5 days.

I was next flown by American Dakota to Marseilles to join an A.M.E.S. Station at Salon en Provence. A few weeks after arrival, on watch, in the middle of the night, I answered a phone call and copied down a signal - my own posting back to the U.K. The following morning, the C.O. took a lot of convincing that this was authentic. Back to Naples by Dakota and had to wait for a troopship to make the final leg. Eventually, In January, on a beautiful moonlit night I arrived at Gourock, the backdrop of mountains covered in snow - a memorable sight.

A few weeks disembarkation leave were granted and home sweet home. Gwen was in the WAAF, managed to get leave and I met her train at Irthlingborough Station. Yet another memorable moment, meeting again after some 4 years or so. Leave over and a return to the G.C.I. Station at Orby and what a difference to when I was last there. The technical equipment had advanced so much as to be unrecognizable as well as unworkable by me. In June 1945, whilst at Orby I married my dearly beloved at Higham Ferrers Methodist Chapel and honeymooned at St. Ives. I often said that I married the prettiest girl in Higham whilst she of course married the prettiest boy in Rushden! Gwen, now being married could now get discharge from the WAAF which she promptly did. Was this the reason she got married to me? Next to a G.C.I, at Neatishead in Norfolk and barely settled down there when I was posted to Schleswig in Germany on the Danish border. Surely, this was a mistaken posting bearing in mind my past service abroad.

On entering the mess for the first time, I was staggered to find a barrel, the size of a water butt, full of Danish butter and you just helped yourselves. Eventually returned to the U.K. and the conflict with Germany now ended, most stations became non-operational, so other jobs had to be found for us. My new attachment was to a large R.A.F. 'boy apprentice' Station at Halton in Bucks, where I finished up in charge of 300 Italian P.O.W's. The P.O. W's were split into working parties throughout the camp and they did duties at the coal yard, laundry etc.etc. English food was not to their taste and I had to visit Tring Co-op to exchange most of their issued rations for spaghetti, macaroni, flour, for making their own pasta, tomatoes and cheese. When visiting their kitchen, the Italian cooks often implored me to partake of a plate of spaghetti, but I told them that I couln't eat that 'muck'. One day I did, with the result that I never went anywhere else for my meals. I have never lost the enjoyment for Italian food but regrettably, nowhere else has it reached their high standard. The Italians were repatriated to Italy and replaced by German P.O. W's who had previously been held in America. It was from Halton, in June 1946 that I was eventually demobbed.

During my R.A. F. career, I met only one person from Northamptonshire and he came from Rushden - Dick Eaton, a son of a Shoe Manufacturer. Amazingly we were in the same 30 man squad at Blackpool and paraded up and down the prom, side by side. Even more amazingly we were aIlocated to the same boarding house billet. (Incidentally another resident was Ronald Binge, composer of Elizabethan Serenade amongst others. He was Mantovani's arranger and was responsible for Mantovani's cascading strings arrangements - not to my taste at all.)  After Blackpool Dick and I went separate ways but when on leave in Tel Aviv, I walked into a 'Toc. H' Club and the first person I saw was Dick. Four years on, just before demob I was hitchhiking home from Halton and my previous lift had dropped me off in a quiet country lane near to Woburn Abbey. It was some time before a car came along and when it did, it stopped and Dick was the driver. He was making his way home from his camp some distance from Halton - he dropped me off at my door. I thought these coincidences must be an omen - a directorship at Eaton's perhaps, but it wasn't to be.

After a couple of weeks off, I rejoined John White's, this time working in the Sales Office.

The year 1949 was marked by my greatest achievement to date, producing a son Ian — admittedly with some slight assistance from Gwen. This was followed 5 years later when to Owen's delight and of course mine, a daughter Corrie was born. No one could have wished for better children. They were always very supportive during our married life and even more so when I was widowed.

November 1951 saw the dismissal of our West Midland Rep and being offered his job, I accepted. Covering Staffordshire and Derbyshire, I was required to live on my territory and moved to Lichfield in 1952, with political crises occurring one after another, all ex R.A.F. personnel, who were on the 'G. Reserve', of which I was one, were recalled for a two-week course so that they could be updated on newly developed technical equipment. I had to report initially to R.A.F. Cardington, kitted out with uniform and was then posted to a radar station, housed in the grounds of Herstmonceux Castle. There were four of us 'new recruits' but the Officers had no intention of re-training us and during our 2 weeks, we never entered the operational building. After breakfast we were told to buzz off. Needing no second bidding, each day for the first week I drove the group into Eastbourne where we re-trained on the putting greens etc. At the first weekend, I returned to Higham, collected Gwen, her mother and Ian, found digs in Eastbourne and spent the days with them. Not quite what the Government intended.

In the mid sixties, the Sales Manager was promoted to Sales Director and I was called to John White's office and offered the Sales Manager's post. This came at the time when Gwen's health was at one of its lowest points. Taking this job would have meant spending the majority of the time being away most of the week and every week, which was quite unthinkable. I had no regrets at turning down this promotion, never being put under any pressure as ever increasing targets were met. The Sales force was continually contracting with the result that, Herefordshire, Warwickshire, West Midlands, Shropshire and Cheshire were added to my territory with just the loss of Derbyshire. Gwen never really enjoyed good health!

How she endured these continual setbacks with such stoicism, I will never know. I had always been friendly with the Sherwood family, schooling with Jim at Newton Road and playing together in our football teams. After Cambridge he took up his first teaching post at Wolstanton Grammar School in the Potteries, so we saw each other on a regular basis. He then became 6th form Maths master at a large grammar school in Maldon and we lost touch for some 15/20 years. In 1976, Gwen & I were touring in the South East and as we were not too far away from Maldon, gave them a ring and followed up with a call. This proved to be an unmitigated disaster as Jim introduced me to auriculas and eventually destroyed any hope of me having leisurely retirement. He stayed with us the following year and I joined him at the National Show in Birmingham, where he was competing. When he returned home he left five plants with me. Inevitably these plants had families and with acquisitions, my stock increased over the next years to a peak of 2,000 coving some 300+ varieties. These have been severely culled recently and I am now left with a paltry 1,500. I have regularly attended the three National Shows at London, Birmingham & Manchester with reasonable success. More rewarding, I have introduced through hybridising, around 18 new varieties, which having been successful on the show benches, have been named. Some have been taken up by the specialist auricula nurseries and distributed world-wide. I recently saw one of my raisings 'Nickity' (named after grandson NICKYT-impson) illustrated on a Japanese website with the caption. Years ago I was honoured with the Presidency, the 3 year term of office has now ended and I have returned to serfdom.

In 1987,I was invited to join the City of Lichfield Probus Club and membership has proved invaluable particularly in my widowerhood. For many years I enjoyed playing bridge and snooker but despite the membership being increased from 40 to 60 we cannot now find four bridge playing members. However I enjoy snooker twice a week, still trying to amass a 147 break - just 113 short to date.

In 2003 I was operated on for prostate cancer which was diagnosed as 'aggressive'. With 30,000 prostate deaths a year in this country, I was not expecting to last long: the grim reaper appears to have overlooked me, but I do not intend to make a formal complaint about that.

2004 was the blackest year of my life when I lost my dearest, whose heart finally gave out. With so much pain, some would say it was a happy release but I still find it difficult to live with.

This year I enter my 90s so the final chapter begins.

Written in 2012

Click here to return to the main index of features
Click here to return to the People & Families index
Click here to e-mail us