An excerpt from my past Part 1
Early 1940 – Wartime at HNA
Christopher, my brother, left the school to work in a factory near London.
He later joined the Royal Navy in January 1941.
The fifty senior boys at the school had access to WW1 303 short Le-
Enfield rifles with ammo, our own ‘Home guard.’
A Charlham Home guard member, Fatty Speed, was absent from
training on more than one occasion and was summoned and
subsequently fined. I was told he left the court, caught the bus straight
away, and fifteen minutes later bought cigarettes at the first shop in
Charlham, where the lady said, “I hear you got fined three quid, Fatty.”
He replied, “This is the only place I know where sound travels faster
I was about fourteen years old when I was confirmed into the Church
of England and learned the catechism and Christian principles. I also
learned not to ask adverse questions about the teachings of the Bible. Our
holy man had a heavy hand. He told us that blind faith in the Lord
would guide us through our lives, and that the lack of faith in
Christianity was an unpardonable sin. When I asked Reverend “Holy”
Harling if his faith would save him if he jumped off a cliff after praying
for safety, he chased me round the schoolroom waving his cane. The
malevolent use of the ‘unpardonable sin’ doctrine years ago by Christian
churches justified their mass murdering, torturing, and burning of people
at the stake. Holy Harling was the reincarnation of Draco 659- 601 BC.
My nose had detected that the Bishop who conducted the
confirmation ceremony had been at the sacramental wine. Only once did
I attend Holy Communion. I just couldn’t swallow the dogma. The
thought of drinking the blood of Christ and eating his body were
inhuman and repulsive to me.
An older person replaced gunner Marten, who I mentioned earlier.
Since war and brutality were the things he enjoyed the most, Gunner had
volunteered to become involved in the war in 1939. It also provided him
with an opportunity to escape from his harridan of a wife who constantly
berated him with tongue-lashings. Mr Marten would then take it out on
us suffering boys. My wish for gunners demise on Dec22,36,when he
thrashed me unmercifully,When I did a bunk from the school came to
fruition in 1940 when he departed this world.
He was killed in action doing what he did best. It was a sad
end for a sad bloke. “Sorry, Mr Marten. It was said in the heat of the
moment and it did hurt.”
Now Mr Long, who was Gunner’s successor and had a continual drip
at the end of his nose, was a weirdo ex-Royal Navy gunner’s mate. about
sixty-odd years of age, Mr Long was not as strict as his predecessor, but
an occasional thump on the head and ‘Pay attention!’ kept us on our toes.
I could hardly understand the gobbledegook he came out with, such as
naval gunnery instructional information that had been superseded long
before WW1. Occasionally, we would laugh at something funny he had
said. At least I assumed it was funny, as everyone else was laughing. My
mind was usually on other things, as I found Mr Long’s chuntering
During the summer of 1940, a display of our various talents was to
take place in a nearby town. The more older and robust boys, who were
usually recruited from the lower end of 4B and 3B classes, were to give a
field gun display; similar to the one the Royal Navy does during the
Royal Tournament at Earl’s Court in London each year. The only
difference was that the field guns were smaller. I wasn’t considered big
enough for this tomfoolery, which often entailed breaking limbs and/or
losing fingers; my turn for that would come soon enough. The
entertaining program for the paying local yokels who had never seen this
boring stuff before would include marching displays, a rifle drill, the
sailor’s hornpipe, and a performance by the school band; which would
not play “Colonel Bogey” on these occasions, and would always choose a
different town each year for fear of a poor audience.
Our physical training instructor, Mr Grosse whose name fitted him
perfectly, could be described as an oversized George Leatherby. He
became very annoyed with Mr Long when loading the trucks with the
tournament gear. This resulted in a good old punch-up with heaps of
foul language. The “F” word that was used frequently during this foray
was greeted several times with cries of “Oooooh’s” from the boys, who
thoroughly enjoyed this unusual spectacle. The headmaster, Mr Foran-
Stein (whose nickname I shall not mention) fired Mr Grosse on the spot
and the show went on.
Mr Grosse’s replacement was a lady about thirty-five years of age, a
Mrs Sheridan, whose husband was serving in the Royal Navy. She was
an attractive woman who always wore a pleasant smile. Our normal
mode of dress for physical training was shorts; but this lady insisted we
wear gymslips, which to us seemed a bit feminine. She was previously
employed at a toffee-nosed girl’s school near London that was bombed
during an overnight raid by the Luftwaffe. The bigger boys seemed to get
a lot of attention from this lady, especially when they’d vault the box
horse and the gymslips would come adrift. Mrs Sheridan was eventually
fired for having it off with under-age boys. How sad.
My mother visited me at the school with her new husband during the
summer of 1940 when I was fourteen. I had last seen her when I was
nine. It would be another six years before I saw her again. I never found
out what happened to her other husband, as my mother was reluctant to
discuss the matter. After seeing the film “Arsenic and Old Lace,” I
wondered if he was buried in the cellar under the coal. Her new
husband, William Stanley Brown, who was three years her senior, stayed
with my mother until he passed away in March 1973. He was a
remarkable man, a saint of a person, a former Sick Berth Attendant in the
Royal Navy during WWI. My mother apparently possessed some
unusual hidden qualities because when they were together they seemed
content. I was now beginning to feel unrelated to my mother. I couldn’t
understand her long absences and had become accustomed to her
appearance every five years.
Part 2 Will be 'EMILY' Providing I receive sufficient demand.
Vest ....Back soon.
To advise that Vest (Les Bowyer) passed away this morning. Regards, Chris (Son).
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