Memories

ALAN’S STORY

I was born 17th May 1931 and my informative years were at the family home of 293 Shipbourne road, Tonbridge which is at the north end of the town faced by a green belt along the length of the road.  The family had moved there from Baltic road in 1934 and was our home until 1948 when we moved to 56 Trench road.

My first school was Bank Street which was an ex work house. It was at that time dark, imposing and with a massive creaking front door that heralded any late entrants. Miss Rowe was the stern, but well respected  headmistress.

From Bank Street I went to Slade school where the headmaster was Mr Herman and other teachers included Mrs Baker, Mr M (jock) Ablethorpe and astudent 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 ritualin the final year was mental arithmatic 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 headmaster’s of Lloyd Morgan and Frank taylor and in Gamma house I slowly developed.  My passion became art and under the tutelage of Mr A P Friend and winning the Haxledene 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 MCO.  I became increasingly interested in Rugby, cross country running, boxing and the gym.  I had 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 and Spear wher thir good advice steered me towards architecture.  In 1948 I entered into Articles of Pupilage with the lending with me remaining on his staff until I started myate John Cardwell ARIBA becoming  a practioner and a four year period ending with me remaining on his staff until I sarted 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.

Mikitary service was a great growing up period for me,  Army number 22743663 , having been an NCO in the cadets,  going to Eastern Command Physical training school, involvement in training, playing rugby and with Dad’s background were a great advantage.  In 1952 from basic training with the Royal West Kent’s in Maidstone I went to the Army School of Education at Beaconsfield, became an acting  sargeant 26/03/53 and went to Egypt 04/05/53 where I qualified as a parachutist  15/06/53 and joined the 33rd Para’s regt. as education instructor in the Suez until July 1954.  I was married 8/8/54 after coming home and was discharged from the Army 12/12 54 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 architectual 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 twentyfive 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 subsequently divorced

Moira Valentine Smallwood in 1965 and divorced 1974

June Mary Langley (nee Foord) in 1975 until her death in 2003

During my life I have always loved to travel stating in the early days with motorcycles across Europe with Roy Randall and the late Geoff Dawson and even in a Bubblecar to Scandanavia. This travel bug has continued to places such as Alaska, Australia and New Zealand.

 

MAURICE’S STORY

I was born on 28th October 1932, the second son of Sam and Dorothy Pitson.  I have fewmemories 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 everybody 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 as it was a cold and hideous place.

Running errands for Mum into Tonbridge, I can remember a steamroller working at the Bordyke and the Home Guard on an excercise stopping everyone for indentity 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 when the Lancastria was bombed.  I think Dad was a sargeant by then, anyway he was soon off to Paisley in Scotland for for a while soon after.

All the school children were asked to collect rose hips, acorns and other things to help with medecined and pig/animal food.  This collection later expanded as they added paper, glass, old saucepans and other metals to it.  The iron railings at Tonbridge School were amongst those taken down and added to tha 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 from the Home Guard.  These were collector’s pieces!  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 th eair raid shelters,  but we were still being taught.  At home we had a Morrison Shelter, a stell construction which took up most of the frontroom.  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 faiting at the sight of blood.  Hop picking and fruit picking was the norm during the summer school holidays, our holidays moved with the readiness o fthe crops.  I didn’t like hop picking so mum used to tie me to the bin to stop me running away.  Air raid activity was by now very intenseover us and everyone had to run to tha ditches at the sides of Goodwin’s hop fields occasionally.  One day a Junkers 88 was shot down seemingly just above us and crashed just over the woods into Hadlow road.  We ran after it to gat 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 dissppeared (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 school shift as me but his brother was on the other shift and at home .  A fully loaded Blenheim bomber crashed on the house and the whole family with the exceprion of Peter were killed (many years later Peter 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 bobing started.  The rail junction and factories were targeted, plus any bobms 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 road, a searchlight 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 two fields and these were picked by local people but the bigger fields around were owned by the big brewers and had an influx of Londoners mainly 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 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 their bushel baskets from your bin and empty them into pokes (large hessian sacks) which were loaded when full onto horse drawn carts to be taken to the Oast Houses for drying.  The tally of bushels 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 fields between 7-8 am and picked until they called ” no more bines ” usually at about 5pm.  Males hops were a blessing , not only because they were bigger but the early 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 if you were old enough taking it in turns to go home early to start the dinner with instuctions from Mum on what to do.  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 fields.  We had a Heinkel shot down over us which crashed in Hadlow road and we all ran over there for spoils bt the Home Gurad ha dgot ther before us.  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 Parkes had been hit by an incendiary bomb and was ablaze.  Another time early in the morning on arrival at the hop fields 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 over night – the early morning dew would have swollen them up and the yeild would have been better when measured  The annual school holidays were all geared for the hop and fruit picking season so weeks varied form year to tear.  There was apple, pear, cherry, walnut and kent cobs a swell as peas and potatoes.  As a school holiday it was work experience.  various people have said it must hve 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 to view the 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 POW’s at Pembury camp and we would run errands for them at 2 cigarettes a time and this started the smoking habit which has lasted for 60 odd years.  Mum knew if you had been smoking and a cli around the ears was the usual remedy – until the time.  We were now getting bigger planes overhead and several crashed in the Shipbourne woods including a Flying Fortress9B17), all the kids had banoliers 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 my hands off 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 teh other end of Topnbridge, the school was good but the teachers did not care for our gung-ho sense of humour.  Woodwork, metealwork 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 normally got three on each hand each 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 sighns remember0.  On e one occasion it was my turn to do the shopping, which meant walking to the Co-op at the other end of the 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 had been run over by a motorbike.  He still bears thescars on the back of his neck.  During the panic that set in some 17 pounder shells had disappeared from yhe back of a tank, NOT GUILTY! I was shopping  -  but I know who did it.  I even got the blame for a bridge across a local stream being blown up later still NOT GUILTY!   A quite spell descended on the town until the V1s (doodlebugs) started.  School was suspended, Home Guard and 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 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 remembered the magnificent sight of 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 partiesin the streets and of course an awful lot of soldiers etc coming home.

German and Italian POWs now walking the streets and working 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.  Ther seemed to be a fair continously at the Bottany near the old Ritz cinema.  Dad became an engineer for the Distillers in Vale road and it was about this time that we moved to 56 Trench road and I went to Tunbridge Wells Tech. for engineering.

On leaving the Technical college I got a job with Joe Goodland learning more engineering skills!  This lasted just over a year when I enlisted as a regular in the Royal Armoured Corps (15 May 1950).  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 sargeant 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 (my army no. is 22523704) with the 8th royal tank regiment for basic training and then to Taunton for a 3rd class wheeled vehicles 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 Cromwells, 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 troooper 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 vehicle0 had to go into the R E M E , rough estimates written since then put the number of tradesamn 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 Sargeant.  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 parade 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 Staff sargeant and ran a transport Column workshop to go in and recover, destroy or repair the first wave of assault tanks. I served in B A O R from 250851 until 020455 and served in the reserves 091256 to 140674.   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 photgrapher for a few years.  During this time I married Margaret and we have since had 4 children( 1 boy and 3 girls).  Hobbies are not that different to the old days, Steam engine fallies, DIY, bird watching  and gardening which I love.  I started making( a few years ago) a 3ft diameter, 3 abreast galloping horse carousel, I hope to finish this one day, 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 sober notes I have only noted 2 deaths in these recollections, but there have been many more, especially in the Services,  recovering tanks and armoured vehicles, although there was no such thing as counseling then.  The memories of all those and of the bodies found around Belson will always remin man that life can be very cruel.

At the time of Maurice’s death there were 4 children,  12 grandchildren and 13 great grandchildren).

Maurice died 4.30pm 24th April 2022 after an illness.

 

MARGARET’S STORY

I was bornMargaret 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, me, Tommy (died at 65) Doreen and barbara.  The house only had gas lighting 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 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 local lock keepers 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 Brewer Tap) for nearly two years then got a council house where we stayed, although we now own it.

We have four children – Stephen, Penny, Maria and Donna, 12 grandchildren and 6 great granchildren. (see Maurice’s story for an update on this).

After a 4 year illness Maragret came out of hospital and got home at 7pm 11 April 2014

Magaret died at 7pm on Good Friday 18 April 2014

Her cremation was 5pm 7 May 2014

 

PAT’S STORY

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 School and then on to Sussex Road School.  The headmaster’s 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 aprofound 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 nip into town.  After Sussex road I went to Tunbridge Wells Tech where I studied mor metal and woodwork.  Mum still had a table I nade when she 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 clothes although we did live with hand-me-downs a lot.  My wartime memories have all become treasured possessions.

One day whilst hop picking thr 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 red hot bullets and casings fell down.  we often had to run to our Mums because of butnt hands after picking up something too hot.  On one occasion somebody shout that a bomb had gone off in Shipbourne road but after a mad dash home we found it had been an incendary which had fallen in the fir tree of our next door neighbour’s(Mrs Parkes) garden and burnt it.

Another memory is of Colin being knocked over 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 and he carried the scars until his death) .  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 cooking Christmas puddings) and had to have  a fire under it to heat the water.  One dy 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 Parkes and on 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 Mor.

Pat died 14 January 2018

 

COLIN’S STORY

Born in Shipbourne road my earliest memories were of the Bungalow Store and the coal merchants directly across the road form us.  We played on the green at the front of the house with our neighbour’s children.  We also played in 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 thiries.  From there on it was scrub and trees until it came out at 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 Londonor straffed the pickers causing eveyone to run to the ditches.  Then there were the dog fights with their after effects of red hot shaell casings and shrapnel which burnt lots of hands.  We saw doodlebugs and the one that exploded in Brunger’s field made me deaf for several days.  I got suveniers 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 memeory is of being run over by despatch rider the day before D -Day( see Pat memories in which he thinks it was a rider from the POW camp).

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.  The 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 to retire at that time.  From there to Slade School and then to Judd.  It was here that I learnt to detest snobbery, something which 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.. I joined the Army 1 November 1954, army number 23224876  serving with the RASC and spending three years in Germany.  Coming out of the Army in early 1958, more strife about the direction of my life.  I met Viv in 1958 and we decided to marry in 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 Peros 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 to try for emigation to Rhodesia, New Zealand and Australia.  We applied to the West Austalian 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 bCindereels State because although it was very large (half the size of Australia or fourteen times the size of the United Kingdom), it was sparsly 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 inWestern Australia I had employment as a labourer and Viv had found us a place to rent 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 got a much higher pay rate. Viv also worked part time at the local nursing home.  Viv 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 HongKong.

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 dangerous to continue and the condition was so stringenr that it was impossible to work, so striking a 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 have retired, I have done voluntary work, ten years teaching adult literacy and numeracy, three years looking after Viv, three years teaching maths to 10 and 11 years olds at Rockingham High School and seven years as a volunteer at the Hospital.

We have had good health most of the time we have been here, but VIV was diagnosed with Ovarian cancer in 2002 and lost her battle against it in 2003. She always wanted to be buried in Werstern Australia and now she she rests in the Pioneer Cemetary here in Rockingham.

It was very hard working 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 ago I decided 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 ad 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 and Maurice and Margaret have also visited.

Despite all this, to us it is still the place I want to be.

Colin died 21 May 2019 after a long illness.

 

MICHAEL’S STORY

I was born 3rd February 1940 and my earliest memories are of 293 Shipbourne road with it’s connecting passage with next door.  I also remember the concrete copper in the kitchen with fondness as it was in that that Mum cooked the Christmas puddings and I remember the Morrison shelter in the front room under the window.

It was here that my memories of the hop gardens started.  Getting up early with Mum making sandwiches and tea.  This was made in a lemonade bottle wrapped in newspaper to keep it warm.  The walk to the hop gardens, particularly on a wet morning and when you started picking the bines the stinging of your hands.  Before lunch time one of us would walk home and make fresh tea to take back for lunch and before we shut down for the day one of us would walk home and start the dinner with very strict instructions from  Mum as to what we had to do.  Evening meant walking home with black stinging hands and the acrid taste of hops with sandwiches.  Home and out came the scrubbing brush to get our hands clean before dinner.

In 1952 we moved to 56 Trench Road with neighbours the Balcomes at no. 54 and the Wickendens at no. 58. In 1953 Dad purchased aTV and I had to walk to Standens in the high street to collect the box which dad made into a TV set in which I won joint 1st place in the coronation fete with my sister who was a crinoline dressed lady.

We later moved to 7 Raeburn Close as the family got smaller as people married. Finally my parents moved to 88 Waveney Road and from there both Mum and Dad died.

My schooling was I suppose typical of children at that time.  First Bank Street, then Slade school followed by the eleven plus leading to either Sussex Road or Judd.  I was fortunate to pass and go to Judd, an academic school but with some practical subjects.  It taught me two things – use my brain and to play rugby.  During this time I attended church and bible classes, (I still have a bible awarded to me by the Rev. Russell White).  One of my first introductions to rugby was when the headmaster Mr Taylor used to stand on the side of the pitch and make every child tackle him at walking pace so that they got to used to tackling.  Rugby also taught me team spirit and discipline – you cannot be angry at an opponent when you have to change,  shower or bathe with them!    I enjoyed school in the main except for my last year,  I could not get into a school team so when I was invited to play for the Old Boys.  I jumped at the chance because 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.

On leaving school I was involved in Tonbridge Athletic Club where my brother Alan was captain.  I carried on with my rugby, my first season being 1965/67 and my last was 1994/5.  I worked in the Insurance industry all my working life.  I married my present wife, Gaye, in 1986 and accepted her two children Caroline and Mark as mine .  I took early retirement and took up Scuba diving.  In 2010 I gave up diving and got an allotment which we gave up a few years later.

Caroline met Dominic and have two children  Jasmine and Marcus.

Jasmine has a partner Rowan and their son Cruz Rowan Bliss was born 01/08/2023 weighing 8 pound 12 ounces.

Marcus and his partner Cydney had  a son 27/04/2024 weighing 7 pounds 7 ozs.

Mark married Sarah on 2nd October 2011 and at Christmas 2011 they told us they were expecting their first child.  11.22pm 29th July 2012 Joshua Mark Stevens was born weighing 8lbs 13ozs and on 7th April 2017 Jessica Louise Stevens was born weighing 8lbs 11ozs.

 

 

AVRIL’S STORY

I was born 24th July 1941.  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 around our house  with streams, woods, and fields were our playground and to some degree our larder.  The crab apples, nuts, quinces and chestnuts all helped.  Hop picking was not always the lovely time as depicted in books and films.  It rained, it was cold and misty in the mornings and those nines could scratch.  Within the town as i grew up I can recall the presence of the Church with Russell White who was the vicar at the parish church and Miss Sampson who ran the Sunday School and the 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 centres for Fetes and galas and the river on which were held the Venetian fetes.

I 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 we had two great children – Andrew who married Sarah and Lisa who married Derek.  I also had four grandchildren – Katie, Emily, Molly and Harry.  Later on in lfe I contracted Ms but kept enjoying lfe without too many complaints.

In 2006 whilst on holiday in Ireland I developed severe stomach pains and on my return was hospitalised.

 

Avril died 11.10pm 7th July 2006 just before her 65th birthday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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