I was born on 17th May 1931 and my informative years were at the family home of 293 Shipbourne Road, Tonbridge which was situated at the north end of the town faced by a green belt along it’s length. The family moved there from Baltic road in 1934 and was our home until 1948 when we moved to a new house in Trench road.
My first school was Bank Street which was at that time dark, imposing and with a massive creaking front door that heralded any late entrants. Miss Rowe was the stern headmistress but well respected in the community.
From Bank Street I went to Slade School where the head master was Mr Herman and other teachers included Mrs Baker and Mr M (Jock) Ablethorpe. The other teacher was a student teacher from Judd School, C A B Humphrey with whom I formed a great friendship in later years on the rugby field. The Friday afternoon ritual in the final year was mental arithmetic or grammar with spelling being a great incentive to get off a few minutes early. I obtained a scholarship in 1942 and along with lifetime friend Gordon Rozer went to Judd School – 1942-1947
Judd was a great institution but Mum had a struggle to provide uniform, sports gear, satchel etc. Under the headmastership’s of Lloyd Morgan and Frank Taylor and in Gamma house I slowly developed. My passion became art and under tutelage of Mr Friend and winning the Hazeldene? Cup I was led into scenery designing and for a short while clothes designing. The Army cadet force was another outlet where I became an NCO. I became increasingly interested in Rugby, cross country running, boxing and the Gym. A mediocre academic career (later put right) left me with a great fondness for Judd and an admiration for it’s traditions.
Leaving School I went to work and study in the Art Studio of Elliot & Spear where their good advice steered me towards architecture. In 1948 I entered into Articles of Pupilage with the late John Cardwell ARIBA becoming a practitioner and a four year period ending with me remaining on his staff until I started my military service in 1952. During this time I studied at the Royal College of Preceptors to obtain my senior certificate to replace my failed school certificate.
Military service was a great growing up period for me, the advantage of having been a cadet NCO and going to Eastern Command Physical training School and involved in training, playing rugby and with Dad’s background were a great advantage. In 1952 I was called up for my National service and from basic training with the Royal West Kent’s in Maidstone I went to the Army School of Education at Beaconsfield, became a sargeant and went to Egypt where I qualified as a parachutist and joined the 33rd Para’s regt.as education instructor in Suez until December 1954 followed by reserve training for three years.
Following my army service I returned to J Cardwell’s practice until 1965 when I joined the then London Electricity Board, first as an architectural draughtsman working up to architectural assistant and finally as a 2nd engineer (architecture) until I retired in 1989. It was a long and happy period when I was allowed to compete on the track and rugby field in representative games and to keep fit in the city. A period of nearly twenty five years seeing the advent of nationalisation and the subsequent deterioration of a great industry.
During all the above ups and downs I married:
Winifred Joyce Murray in 1954 and susequently divorced
Moira Valentina Smallwood in 1965 and divorced 1974
June Mary Langley (Foord) in 1975 who died 2003
During my life I have always loved to travel starting in the early days with motorcycles Europe across with Roy Randall and the late Geoff Dawson and even a bubblecar to Scandanavia. This travel bug has continued to places such as Alaska and Australia and New Zealand.
I was born on 28th October 1932, the second son of Sam and Dorothy Pitson. I have few memories of when I was very young except for dad coming and going with strange motorcycles and other mechanical contraptions. I think the first outstanding memory was the onset of the war with everbody getting very excited and dad leaving again. I was probably at Slade School at the time, which was far better than the old Bank Street Infants where I started my schooling which was a cold and hideous place.
Running errands for mum into Tonbridge, I can remember a steamroller working at the Bordyke junction and the Home Guard on an exercise stopping everyone for identity card and gas mask check. They had their headquarters just down the road near the old “Flea Pit” cinema. Later these exercises seemed to appear everywhere and at any time including taking down all the road signs and town names. The next recollection is of all the troop movements and people getting agitated. This I now know was Dunkirk. Dad came home for a while with his brother Arthur, their younger brother Harold having been killed out there. I think dad was a sargeant by then, anyway he was soon off to Paisley in Scotland for a while soon after. All the school children were asked to collect rose hips, acorns and other things to help with medicines and pig/animal food. This collection later expanded as they added paper, glass, old saucepans and metal to it. The iron railings at Tonbridge School were amongst those taken down and added to the war effort. This was the time that towns and villages were trying to make enough to build their own spitfire, all for the war effort. Because we lived in Kent a lot of activity was seen in the sky even during daylight hours and as we walked everywhere, all boys started to collect spent bullets and shell cases. These had a better swap value than cigarette cards or marbles. Some children even managed to get dummy grenades etc. from the Home Guard. These were collectors’ items! Later we settled into a routine of just half a days schooling, this meant that half the school went in the morning and the other half in the afternoon. This was partly because teachers were being called up and partly because the Battle of Britain was taking place up in the skies above us, more lessons were taught in the air raid shelters, but we were still being taught. At home we had a Morrison shelter, a all steel construction which took up most of the front roon. A lot of families had one of these including our neighbours Mrs Parkes and Mr and Mrs Hunt and their two children. Mr Hunt was a foreman with Tonbridge council and Mrs Hunt was a nurse, although I remember her fainting at the sight of blood. Hop picking and fruit picking was the norm during the summer school holidays, our holidays moved with the readiness of the crops. I didn’t like hop picking so mum tied me to the bin to stop me running away. Air raid activity was by now very intense over us and everyone had to run into the ditches at the side of Goodwins hop fields occasionally. One day a Heinkel 111 was shot down just above us and crashed just over the woods into Hadlow road. We ran after it to get some spoils but the Home Guard beat us to it and took some of the crew prisoner. We missed out on this one but made up for it later in the war. Dad made periodic appearances and then disappeared (as we later learned) to Kenya and then to Burma. About this time some buses and trains were machine gunned and there were a few deaths in our area. A friend of mine from school, Peter Healy was on the same shift as me but his brother was on the other one and at home. A fully laden Blenhein bomber crashed on their house and the whole family with the exception of Peter were killed (many years later he became the manager of a hardware shop in Tonbridge). The previous day we had all been scrumping just yards from their house. Several schoolmates were killed during this period and then the night bombing started. The rail junction and factories were targeted, plus any bombs that were not dropped over London were dropped on their way home. We now had a change in collecting spoils, shrapnel (the bigger the better) was far more exciting than the odd bullet for swaps. More planes were crashing in the woods around us so our collection of booty was growing. We also had an anti-aircraft battery at one end of the street, a search light at the other and balloons here and there. The noise at night was terrible but no one seemed to notice and everyone had tales of near misses.
Hop picking was an annual rite done late August, September and even early October depending on the weather. The picking season was about 4-6 weeks again depending on the weather and the size of the hop fields. The fields we used were owned by the Goodwins and were just down the road from us at the back of the house They only had two hop fields and these were picked by local people but the bigger fields around were were often owned by the big brewers and had an influx of Londoners from the East End which was their annual holiday to make money for the winter period. We had a double bin and everyone gathered round it to denude the bines of their flowers (no leaves allowed). The picked hops were measured throughout the day by the Tally men who would fill the bushel baskets from your hops and empty them into pokes (large hessian sacks) which were loaded onto horse drawn carts to be taken to the Oast houses for drying. The tally of bushels was recorded in your book so at the end of the season you were paid against the amount you picked. The first field we picked was full of male hops which were long and fat and so filled your bin easier. The second field was “pea hops” much smaller but you got more money for picking them. The pea hops were mainly used by the brewing industry whilst the male ones were used for such things as making the khaki dye for uniforms. We usually arrived at the hop fields between 7-8 am and picked until they called “No more bines” usually at about 5pm. Male hops were a blessing because the morning dew helped the flowers swell and so filled the bin faster. During this time we lived on cold tea, water and odd sandwiches during the day and taking it in turn to go home early to start the dinner for that evening. In 1940 we were in bomb alley and the blitz and the Battle of Britain meant that life sometimes got hectic and we often sheltered in the ditches around the hop fields We had a Heinkel shot down over us which crashed in Hadlow road and we all ran over there for spoils but the Home Guard beat us to it. Whilst hop picking one day mum was told our house was on fire it turned out that a huge fir tree in the garden of our neighbour, Mrs Parks had been hit by an incendiary bomb and was ablaze. Another time early in the morning on arrival at the hop field we were told no picking today! There was an unexploded bomb in our bin. Hitler’s ears must have burnt that night as mum had left 2 bushels of hops in the bin overnight – the early morning dew would swell them up and the yield would have been better when collected.The annual school holidays were all geared for the hop and fruit picking season so the weeks varied year by year.There was apple, pear,cherry, walnut and Kent cobs as well as peas and potatoes. As a school holiday it was work experience. Various people have said that it must have been romantic – It wasn’t – it was smelly, your hands would be black, scratched and often bleeding and every midge and bug bit you. However with hindsight it was necessary in view of the bad times we were living in. Mum and Dad met in the late 1920′s in a hop field in Southborough and romance blossomed for them. That way of life has now disappeared, the fields and orchards are now housing estates. but like everything else in life the memories stay and comfort us.
Life appeared to be getting better and we had Italian POWs at Pembury camp and we’d run errands for them at 2 cigarettes a time and this started the smoking habit which has lasted for 60 years. Mum knew if you had been smoking and a clip around the ears was the usual remedy – until the next time. We were now getting bigger planes overhead and several crashed in the Shipbourne woods including a Flying Fortress B17, all the kids had bandoliers of ammunition and sheets of perspex. We had fun taking bullets apart and blowing things up. Dad had a large greenhouse which suprisingly had survived all to date, however, a 7.92 cannon shell in a vice in the shed – hit with a hammer managed to do what Hitler could not. I got a severe caning for this. No lectures on how I could have blown off my hands etc. We lived in a different world then. Food rationing was on but we always managed to get rabbits, eggs and the odd chicken somehow. At this time I went to the big boys school (Sussex Road) at the other end of Tonbridge, the school was good but the teachers did not care for our gung-ho sense of humour. Woodwork, metalwork and arts I enjoyed, also gardening. The sports master decided I did too much gardening and said I should play more sport, cricket!! The first ball landed on my head and I was out for the count and have never played since. The headmaster was a mean man and I usually got three on each hand at morning assembly “just in case”. Lots of troop movements now, which turned out to be the D-Day approach. Lines of lorries and tanks in Tonbridge High street, day after day. The Home Guard, Fire Wardens etc. had more or less stood down but were now active as marshals on the roads (no road signs remember). On one occasion it was my turn to do the shopping, which meant walking to the Co-op at the other end of town, I was told on my return that my brother Colin had been run over by a tank! However it appeared that he had stepped out from behind a tank and been run over by a motorbike. He still has the scar on the back of his neck. During the panic that set in some 17 pounder shells had disappeared from the back of a tank, NOT GUILTY! I was shopping but I know who did it, even though I got the blame for a bridge across a local stream being blown up later still NOT GUILTY ! A quiet spell descended on the town until the doodlebugs started. School was suspended. Home Guard and the Fire Wardens all around on duty. We were in the firing line for London again. We now all slept in the Morrison shelter, just in case. Another friend was killed about 50 yards from me, we were playing on Tinkers Island and I was in a hollow at the time and escaped the blast. Again many people were killed and injured. About this time also I remember the magnificent sight of the planes and their gliders all painted with black and white stripes going over (on their way to Arnhem). All seemed good now and the next thing was the VE parties in the streets and of course an awful lot of soldiers etc. coming home.
German and Italian POWs now walked the streets and worked on the land, more errands, more cigarettes, more clips around the ears. Some things did not change.
VJ day. More parties and at last dad came home for good. There seemed to be a fair continuously at the Bottany fields near the Ritz cinema. Dad became an engineer for the Distillers down Vale road and it was about this time we moved to 56 Trench road and I went to the Tunbridge Wells Tech. for engineering.
On leaving the Technical college I got a job with Joe Goodland learning more engineering skills! (this company was still there as at 2015) This lasted just over a year when I enlisted as a regular in the Royal Armoured Corps. Dad had served for a while in the old Tank regiment at Bovington with T E Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) so this put me in a good position for selection. I had served in the Army cadets at the Tech and later in the Tonbridge Cadets (a sergeant no less) I also joined the band and played the big bass drum occasionally at St Georges and Rememberance parades. This also helped.
I went to Catterick in May 1950 with the 8th Royal Tank Regiment for basic training and then to Taunton for a 3rd class wheeled vehicle fitters course, from there to Bovington for my 3rd class tank fitters and 2nd class tank drivers courses. Back to Catterick, then to Germany with the 9th Lancers, a fine Regiment. I became the G H Q Squadron fitter with 3 Comets (the updated version), a Churchill Mk8 Bridge layer and about 8 armoured scout cars to care for. I went off to Duisburg for my 2nd class tank fitters course and found I had been posted to a fighting squadron and was now looking after 15 Centurions and 2 White half tracks. This was “B” squadron and I remained there until I came out. At this time I was still only a trooper and off I went on my 1st class (6 stars) tank fitters course. This included American, French, Russian and a working knowledge of Tiger tanks.
Some idiot in the Government then decreed that all tank fitters (either gun or vehicle) had to go into the R E M E, rough estimates written since then put the number of tradesman that left in the next 18 months exceeded 2000. This was the beginning of the end of the British Army as I knew it. However I took an education course, got a City and Guilds and became a l/cpl in 2 weeks. Within 3 months I was a full Substantive Sergeant. My squadron was also the tank recovery unit for the 11th Armoured Division and so I spent at least 9 months in the field all over Europe on NATO schemes. The other three months I was in camp on parades etc., we were good!. I came out after 5 years and met my wife to be, Margaret. Meanwhile, I worked in engineering again as a field engineer on Chaseside Shovels, dumpers and cranes. I was recalled to colours for the Suez Campaign. What a farce that was again, politicians not leaving it to the Military. Made it up to Staff Sargeant and ran a Transport Column Workshop to go in and recover, destroy or repair the first wave of assault tanks. Came out again and became export manager for Chaseside Engineering, Ware. I have mainly worked in the engineering business but did take a respite to become a shop manager and photographer for a few years. During this time I married Margaret and we have since had 4 children, (1 boy and 3 girls) who have to date produced 12 grand children and 12 great grand children ( as at 01st March 2018). Hobbies are not that different from the old days, Steam engine rallies, DIY and gardening which I love. I started making (a few years ago) a 3ft diameter 3 abreast galloping horse carousel, being finished by a friend, also the Dutch Hurdy Gurdy with 20 notes. Both projects are awaiting better weather to work outdoors. Bird watching has quietened down, the legs do not like 20 mile walks across Dartmoor etc. However my life tick book is still amongst the highest in Hertfordshire. On more a more sober note I have only noted 2 deaths in these recollections, but there have been many more, especially in the Services, recovering tanks and armoured cars, although there was no such thing as counselling then. The memories of all those and of the bodies found around Belson will always remind the inner man that life can be very cruel.
I was born Margaret Susan Newman on 2nd May 1938 and my parents were Thomas John Newman and Edith May Newman (nee Day). The third of six children (all born in Bowling road, Ware) we were Kathleen (died at 52), Vera (died in 2017), Me (died 18th April 2014), Tommy (died at 65) Doreen and Barbara. The house only had gas in three rooms and no electricity, the radio was driven by an accumulator. We ironed with solid irons which were heated either in the fire or on the gas stove – mum later bought a gas iron which had to be used slowly as flames came out of the back and burnt your clothes if you moved it too fast.
Dad was a Bargee in fact the last one still in operation in Ware in the 60′s when Barbara got married. Our holidays were days out on the barge and the highlights were riding the horse and bacon sandwiches (mostly fat) that the lock keepers wives would give us.
I met Maurice at my friend Ann’s 15th birthday party. He walked me home and that was the beginning. We went for walks and the pictures – he was on leave with Ann’s brother Tony who was in his squadron. When he went back to Germany he asked me to write.
When Maurice came out of the Army he moved to Ware and after about 18 months we got engaged and married when I was 19. We lived over a pub (The Brewery Tap) for nearly two years then got a council house where we still are although we now own the house.
We have 4 children, 12 grandchildren and 12 great grandchildren. (as at 01 March 2018)
After a 4 year illness Margaret came out of hospital and got home at 7pm on 11th April 2014
She died at 7pm on Good Friday 18 April 2014
Cremation was at 5pm on 07 May 2014
I was born 1st February 1934 in Tonbridge in Baltic Road and the family moved to 293 Shipbourne road some three days later. School started in 1938 in Bank Street School. The only name I can remember is Mrs Jarrett, the headmistress. After Bank Street I went to the Slade and then onto Sussex Road School. The headmasters name was Mr Fletcher and his deputy was a Mr Bampton (Baldy). He seemed a vicious man who’s only pleasure appeared to be swiping any one who got in his way with a large plimsoll. The best teachers were a Charlie Chasmar who taught gardening and a Mr Stonely who taught metalwork and woodwork. Both these teachers had a profound effect on me, I am still gardening some 65 years later and the metal/woodwork still find application. These lessons were held in an old building at the bottom of Sussex Road and from here you could nip into town. After Sussex Road I went to Tunbridge Wells Tech.where I studied more metal and woodwork. Mum still had a table I made when she sadly died in 1992. I can recall the struggles mum had in trying to feed us. We would grow vegetables and when in season scrump apples from local orchards. We also went hop-picking, (I can still recall picking hops in the early morning mist and rain.) another way mum could raise money to buy new clothes although we did live with hand-me downs a lot.My wartime memories have all become treasured possessions.
One day whilst hop picking the Battle of Britain was being fought overhead. My Mum like all the neighbours was screaming at the children to get into the ditches whilst all the time the red hot bullets and casings fell down. We often had to run to our Mums because of burnt hands after picking up something too hot. On one occasion somebody shouted that a bomb had gone off in Shipbourne Road but after a mad dash home we found it had been an incendiary which had fallen in the fir tree in our next door neighbour’s (Mrs Parks) garden and burnt it. When we were hop picking we took turns going home to prepare our dinner. One day it was Maurice’s turn and he decided to make semolina as a treat. Unfortunately he used a whole packet and filled every pan and bowl he could find. He hadn’t realised that it would swell up and so we ate it for days with mum deciding to use her food colourings on it so we had different colours for different days.
Another memory is of Colin being knocked down by a despatch rider from the POW camp just up the road. He wasn’t badly injured, enough to put him in hospital for a while (He still bears the scar.) The soldiers were very kind and arranged visits to the hospital and slipped mum rations. In the house the old copper was used for baths and had to have a fire under it to heat the water. One day Maurice decided to top up the hot water but I got it over my chest. Thanks to mum I wasn’t badly scalded but the scars took a long time to heal.
I can recall some of our neighbours. One side was Mrs Parks and the other Mrs Hunt one son was called Malcolm. Then there was Jimmy Miles, Alec Ridge, Paul Grainger, Paul Newman and Bill Tootle. Girl-wise there was Pauline Tuxford and Sheila Morris.
After the war, as soon as I was old enough I started work at a local factory called the Sylvia Box co. in Cannon lane. We made cardboard boxes and presentation boxes for Conway Stewart. These were works of art with gold coloured edges and silk linings.When I was old enough I decided I wanted to a soldier like my dad and my elder brother Maurice. I signed up on St Patricks day March 17th 1952, became private 22796939 Pitson P R and was sent to Blandford in Dorset for basic training for 8 weeks and then on to Malvern in Worchestershire to decide what we wanted to be. I wanted to join Maurice in Germany and drive tanks but somebody decided I was colour blind and couldn’t drive. I was posted to Egypt in July 1952 , a small camp at El Ballah as a storeman in charge of a REME workshop attached to 1st L of C Royal Signals. Whilst in Egypt I visited many wonderous places, Cairo, Ishmalia, Tel El Kabir and whilst on exercises to Mount Sinai, Jordan and others. When King George VI died and Queen Elizabeth was crowned we were given a couple of days off and had two days of sports, games and parties. I was promoted three times up to acting sergeant but after three years I was beginning to feel homesick. During this time the Suez conflict had started with Col. Nasser deciding that the Suez canal was the property of Egypt. We all had to walk around with loaded rifles or as an NCO a Sten gun. Finally the time came when all Barracks in Egypt were closed down. I came back to England and went on demob leave I can remember knocking on my parent’s house, 56 Trench Road during the evening of Christmas Eve 1955 giving everyone a very happy Christmas.
After demob, 16th March 1959, I went back to the Sylvia Box co. for a short while. I married Jean and we had two wonderful daughters. Money was short so I went to work for Birch Stigmat and became an optical technician. I did this for 28 years finishing up as a manager. During this time the Company was taken over by Pilkingtons but after a time we started to lose money and they started to thin the staff. We all knew that closure wasn’t far away and a number of long serving staff were whittled out to save large redundancy payments.
Jean and I were divorced and I married Lynda and we had a daughter and a son. Lliane our daughter was born 22 December 1988 died 18th February 1989 then Lynda decide to trade me for a younger model. Later I married Rita and have lived happily ever after.
Pat died at 3pm on 14th January 2018 after a long illness ( a couple of weeks before his 84th birthday)
Born in Shipbourne Road my earliest memories were of the Bungalow stores and the coal merchants directly across the road from us. We played on the green at the front of the house with our neighbours children.We also played in the Three Corners, a block of waste ground at the end of the road behind Three Chimneys house. In those days places like Thorpe Avenue went nowhere as the Council stopped any development in the late thirties. From there on it was scrub and trees until it came out onto Goodwin’s fields and hop-gardens. What a wonderful life, picking hops in the early morning mists or stinging rain!
Then of course there were the German planes who ditched their bombs after aborted raids on London or straffed the pickers causing everyone to run to the ditches.Then there were the dog fights with their after effects of red hot shell casings and shrapnel which burnt a lot of hands. We saw doodlebugs and the one that exploded in Brunger’s field made me deaf for several days. I got souveniers from the Dornier which came down on Starvecrow Hill and the fighter which crashed in Hadlow Road. We could at night see London burning although it was thirty miles away.One last memory is of being run over by a army despatch rider the day before D-day (see Pat’s memories in which he thinks it was a rider from The POW camp but Maurice doesn’t.)
For most of the war I went to Bank Street School, we spent half our time sitting in the air-raid shelter which was so wet we had to sit on wooden benches with our feet on house bricks to keep them dry. One teacher’s name I recall was Miss Bartholemew who was the very first teacher my son David had when he went to the Hugh Christie School just before we left for Australia.I remember her as a short dumpy person who seemed ready for retired at that time. From there to the Slade (Slade School) and then to Judd.It was here that I learnt to detest snobbery, something which has stayed with me all my life.
After leaving school I bummed around for a while upsetting mum and dad who were disappointed in me but as I explained I wanted to travel around and joined the army on 1st November 1954 becoming 23224816 Pitson C D. Serving with the RASC and spending three years in Germany finishing up as sub. l/cpl and coming out of the army 30.10.1957, more strife about the direction of my life. I met Viv in April 1958 and decided to marry 14 March 1959.
I worked for various firms before finishing as a leading hand with the DCL research plant in Vale Road. When they decided to close in late 1967 they found me a position with Perox Chemicals in Sheerness as a shift operator. This was fine until the plant exploded in mid August 1968. I returned to Tonbridge and took a factory job as a mechanic but was never that happy. Viv and I decided that England was not the place to raise our son and decided to try for emigration to Rhodesia, New Zealand or Australia. We applied to the West Australian government, had interviews and medicals and were invited to fly out within three months. This caused another conflict with dad who offered to put money aside for when we decided to crawl back.
When we came to Western Australia, it was like moving to a new planet. Back then it was known as the Cinderella State because although it was very large (half the total size of Australia or fourteen times the size of the United Kingdom), it was sparsely populated and we had no industry whatsoever. We had gold mines at Kalgoorlie, but they are out in the desert.Within a week of arriving in Western Australia I had employment as a labourer and Viv had found us a place to rent near the beach in Rockingham. In those days Rockingham was a sleepy coastal town and was only active during the summer months as everybody came here for their holidays Total population was seven thousand people, seven shops and one pub
About then, it was found that we had large deposits of iron ore, bauxite, pink diamonds, more gold, natural gas and oil. They also found copper, uranium and other bits. It was cowboy country which meant nobody had work tickets or trade papers. If you could do the job, you got the job. I was working in maintenance and construction so I decided to get my trade papers for everything. Rigging, scaffolding, steel erection, crane licence, tower hoist operator. It was obvious that with the amount of deaths and injuries in the industry, things were about to change. My timing was perfect because after three years of night school and my daytime experience I could demand and get a much higher pay rate. Viv also worked part time at the local nursing home. We worked hard and it paid off. By the late seventies, we were buying our own house near the beach, we bought a new car every five years and we began to travel. Apart from visiting the UK a few times we went to Singapore, Penang and Hong Kong.
When I was sixty I had a heart attack and that slowed me down. My company asked me to stay on and I did for a further three years. In 1992 my doctor told me it was too dangerous to continue and the conditions were so stringent that it was impossible to work, so striking a deal with my company I became a dole bludger! With enough money in the kitty we lived OK.
In the twenty years since I retired I have done voluntary work, ten years teaching adult literacy and numeracy, three years looking after Viv, three years teaching maths to year 10 and 11′s at Rockingham High School and seven years as a volunteer at the Hospital.
It was hard work in the beginning but because we were prepared to work we prospered. Viv said it was the best move we ever made and even thirty five years ago decided that this was the place for us. Australia has been good to us, the climate and potential for advancement plus our desire to enjoy life made it the perfect place. Our son David grew up, got work and travelled around Australia. To Darwin in the north to Victoria in the south where he met his future wife Susanne. He then came back to Western Australia for a few years starting his own furniture business and now resides in Victoria with Susanne and their children Tameika and Jay. Mum and dad visited us in 1978 for six weeks and had a great time.
We have had good health most of the time we have been here but Viv was diagnosed with Ovarian cancer in 2000 and lost her battle against it in 2003. She always wanted to buried in Western Australia and she now rests in the Pioneer Cemetery here in Rockingham.
Despite all this is still the place I want to be.
Colin died 21 May 2019 after a long illness.
The funeral was Monday 10th June 2019
My memories of Tonbridge were of 293 Shipbourne Road with it’s connecting passageway to the next house. I also remember the concrete copper/bath in the kitchen with fondness as it was in that mum cooked her christmas puddings and the Morrison shelter in the front room under the window.
It was also here that my memories of the hop fields started. Walking to them on a wet morning with the bines stinging ones hands and then walking home to make tea. This was poured into a lemonade bottle and wrapped in newspaper to take back to the field for lunch. Black hands and the acrid taste of hops with sandwiches. My schooling was I suppose typical of children at that time. First Bank Street, then the Slade and then the Eleven Plus leading to either Judd or Sussex Road. I was fortunate to get to Judd, an academic school but with some practical subjects. It taught me two main things to use my brain and play rugby. One of my first introductions to the game was when the head master used to stand on the pitch and make every child tackle him at walking pace so that they got used to tackling. It also taught me team spirit and discipline – you cannot keep angry at an opponent when you have to shower or bathe with them! I enjoyed school in the main except for my last year. I could not get into a school rugby team so when I was invited to play for the Old Boys I jumped at the chance. In those days if you didn’t play for the school you had to attend the matches, I didn’t and this resulted in being placed in detention on a Monday morning assembly.
I also remember church and bible classes – I still have a bible awarded to me by the Rev Russell White. Then of course the move to Trench road and the Coronation party with its fancy dress competition and the decorations all over the outside of the house. It was here that we had the best Christmases and I will always remember the great dinners, teas and suppers Mum did for us.
On leaving school I was involved with Tonbridge Athletic club where Alan, my oldest brother was captain at the time and carried on with my rugby. My first season was 1956/7 and my last was 1994/5. I married my present wife Gaye in 1986 and we have two great children Caroline and Mark. I worked in the Insurance Industry all my working life, took early retirement and then took up scuba diving. In 2010 I gave up scuba diving and got an allotment!
2 Oct 2011 Mark and Sarah got married
Christmas 2011 my son Mark and his wife Sarah told us that they were expecting their first child.
11.22pm 29/07/12 Joshua Mark Stevens was born weighing in at 8lbs 13 ozs
9.30 pm 07/04/2017 Jessica Louise Stevens was born weighing 8lbs 11 ozs
I vaguely remember Shipbourne Road and of course Bank Street School. The teachers I remember were Miss Peck and Miss Cooper who I think of as nasty and nice. The undeveloped spaces with streams, woods and fields were our playground and to some degree our larder. The crab apples, nuts, quinces, chestnuts all helped. Hop picking was not always the lovely time as depicted in books and films. It rained, it was cold and misty first thing in the morning and those bines could scratch. Within the town as I grew up I can recall the presence of the Church with Russell White who was vicar at the Parish church and Miss Sampson who ran Sunday school and bible classes. I can recall the CO-OP with its money containers that seemed to fly overhead on its wire system and of course the Castle which was the centre for fetes and galas and the river on which were held the Venetian fetes.
I went went to Tonbridge Grammar school for girls before transferring to the Girls Technical school as I wanted to become a nurse which I did spending most of my working life at Carshalton Hospital. I married Peter and had two great children Andrew who married Sarah and Lisa who married Derek. I also had four great grandchildren: Katie and Emily and Molly and Harry. Later I contracted MS but carried on enjoying life without too many complaints.
In 2006 whilst on holiday in Ireland she developed severe stomach pains and on her return she was hospitalised.
Avril died 11.10pm 7th July just before her 65th birthday.