16 March 2003

 Ullswater: Our Family and WW2 Pt.1

My Father
Shortly after we arrived at Sharrow Bay in late 1939 World War Two began. Conscription for the armed forces was taking place, which started with the younger age groups first. My father who was 32 years old in 1939 did not fit into the conscription category yet.

Dad joined the Home Guard, which was formed to guard “the home front” and was comprised of older men including retirees. Their duties consisted of doing evening duties and patrols, helping out the police and regular army and a myriad other duties that might crop up. These duties were all carried out on a voluntary part time basis.

In mid 1941-42, the was close to two years old and not going very well for the Britain and a call went out for volunteers to man the armaments factories which were being expanded to produce more. The Nelson’s mentioned to Dad if he wished, he was free to volunteer, Dad was now 34. For Britain the war was going badly, Germany was over-running Europe and would be soon at Britain’s gates so Dad volunteered.

He was selected for an interview and given an aptitude test and then he was sent on I think, a six week course to work on tank engines at a large factory at Chilwell near Nottingham. The course covered everything including assembly, fitting, making parts and making patterns. He was one of three out of one hundred who topped the course and I remember he was quietly proud of his accomplishment.

I also remember the course test pieces he made and brought home when we were in the Cottage at Sharrow Bay, he told me how he made them and later I would sometimes get them out from his workbench in the laundry area and look at them and wonder how they could have been made to fit so perfectly.

We saw little of Dad for over four years he was in Chilwell; he couldn’t come home for holidays, just the odd weekend. Travel during wartime was well neigh impossible. The railway system had been commandeered for the war effort and there was little or no room for private passengers on the main trunk lines. Sometimes Dad would come home for weekends. He had a friend down in Chilwell who lived in Penrith and he had a car. Petrol was rationed like many things during the war and Dad’s friend would save his petrol coupons until he had enough coupons to buy sufficient petrol to make the journey there and back, Dad and two others would share the cost of the petrol and expenses. We used to look forward to seeing him home, sitting in his own armchair and I think he used to be pleased too. Down in Chilwell he used to live in a bed sitting room in private lodgings and I imagine in was a lonely existence on his own. On Sunday nights his friend would pick him up and we would wave him good-bye for a few more weeks.

Looking backwards now Dad never used to say much, he was a quiet man and kept his feelings to himself. As far as I remember he complained little but I do remember he always tackled a problem with a positive attitude, there was in his eyes a solution to everything. I think too that although he had just a basic education he was probably a clever man and in another age he would have gone far. Dad taught me many practical things over the years and when I used to work with him he would quietly explain and show me the best way to tackle a job and to this day I still do jobs his way. I never really thought of it before I began my memoirs but I loved and respected my father very much.

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