Alan Stanley

  1937 -
  City of Birth:
Romford. Essex. Great Britain.
 
 

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Alan's Story > Chapters > 19. Alan's War. 19.

"19. Alan's War. 19." 

 

Date Range: 01/01/1940 To 05/08/1945   Comments: 2   Views: 2,246
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As Stationmaster, or Depot Manager; the title on his office door, Uncle John received supplies at the depot from around the country, on their way to the war effort. Sometimes uncle would find ways that they would become useful in other ways and that would benifit him and others in ways that the war never intended. My dad would turn up with some unusual items but he never seemed to be able to get his hands on the sort of things that Uncle John could get. Dad worked for the Plessey Company and not many people in the farming comunity wanted a radar station!
Convoys of wagons would come into the depot and be shunted into the sidings by people like Mr Moore, ready to move when needed to the coast and France or onwards. Sometimes wagons filled with scrap to be melted down were dumped in a pile at the side of the track to use the wagons for more important things that were not scrap. There were times when the unloaded items seemed to have been overlooked or forgotten.
So it was that Uncle aquired a caravan chassis with wheels and complete with tyres.
It was in a crate, leaning up against a wall and covering a door to a part of the warehouse that was hardly used. Two army engineers wanted to see what was behind the closed door and while trying to move the crate aside it fell over and broke open. There was a label attached to the outside sitting down on the floor but damp had obliterated the writing. There was no manufactures plate attached, so uncle said that he didn't know where it had come from or where it was supposed to go. He checked through the papers that he had for stored materials but even after a week and having Mrs Spencer check through her papers decided that he was not  at that time able to decide where it was intended to go but decided there and then where it would finish up. 
The tyres were pumped up and it was pushed out of the shed onto the platform where bricks were chocked under the wheels and the attached jacks were wound down. When we went down to the depot with uncle a couple of weeks later we were surprised to find that a floor had already been fitted and any wagons passing through were inspected for odd pieces of wood, boarding or asbestos sheeting. All the men were informed that Mr Shead was on the lookout for odd pieces of wood and it had to be legal. Packing cases, boards, planks; all were useful.
The allotment that uncle cultivated in the sidings at the end of a side line would produce a bunch of carrots or a cabbage or even a basket of vegetables that he could use to barter for a desirable piece of wood. Aunt Edna would moan something awful about the waste of good food that had taken so long to grow being wasted on bits of rubbish, because if that thing ever got built, where was the petrol coming from to pull that thing? and Doris, have you seen the colour of it? Aunt Edna had been coerced into going to see how the building was progressing, not that she had any option when visitors to the house or passers by would stop and "Where you going on yer 'olidays then?"
It was a mistake.
 Grown up men never seem to learn something that we kids are born with. Do not tell mum's or aunt's what you have been doing if you know they are going to say no until you have done it , and then by that time it's too late, in it?"  How do you learn about lifes little foilbles if you never stub your toe.  Then it's either leave it or pull it all down before your dad gets home.
Mind, you had to admit it was a funny colour. Looked a bit like army camouflage from a distance. Some of it was plain board and some of it was painted, some still had wallpaper traces. Still, we didn't mind. Uncle John always seemed to know what he was doing. He was a dependable man; always seemed to know where he was going and where he would finish up in life. He did not forget appointments and if he said he would be there he would be there-on time. He was a bit bouring sometimes, but you knew where you stood with him and how far you could go . Couldn't tell him a joke because he didn't understand it, not that there were many jokes in those days. We used to read him ones out of old comics but he never laughed. In fact the only time that I remember him really laughing was when Aunt Edna sat on her bum in the middle of a stream that forded the road on our way to her church. She wanted to get out and look at the stream crossing the road and he stopped the Humber in the middle of it for some reason and she stepped out and slipped on the algae and went arse over tip or was it tit, I don't remember. 
Laugh. He laughed so hard that he nearly had a fit. So did Aunt Edna, but that's another story.
 Bit by bit the metal chassis began to look like something.   A framework appeared in which could be seen the shape of a door and then windows in the sides and at the ends. Slowly the gaps in between would be filled in. Slowly meant slowly. Sometimes, uncle said, there wasn't  a decent bit of wood for weeks and he had us scouring the countryside on our way home from school.
 The year was beginning to slip past quickly now, and the evenings were getting shorter and the weather colder. We were now wearing heavier jackets to school and on a Saturday we went down to a church Red Cross jumble sale in Sudbury to look for Winter clothes. Mum was surprised to see so much clothing at the church, but the vicar said that he had persuaded households who still had clothing of children who had grown up to part with them now, and also a school that had evacuated from Romford had gone back home so the demand was less. Even so he said that he had to go out and collect six times and the tables in the church hall were groaning and the place was packed. We saw a few of our mates from school.
 Mum had us trying on clothes all over the place and it got so boring; we tried on about ten pair of shoes and then there were heaps all mixed up.   She found us new school blazers and heavy worsted long pants for the cold and lighter ones for the Summer. When we went to pay I told the vicar that we were evacuees from London and he said that he hadn't seen us before and that we could have the clothes for nothing but mum wouldn't hear of it but he insisted. When Uncle and Aunt picked us up on the way back from the market he got very annoyed with me and went and paid the vicar. On the way home he queued at a garage for two gallons of petrol and then moaned all the way home because it had gone up to 2/- a gallon.
We dropped mum and auntie and then went with uncle to the allotment to dig some potatoes which took up too much space to grow in the garden at the house. We found that the caravan had been moved from the platform to a space in the sidings next to the allotment at the end of a line just past the end of the buffers.
Uncle said that it looked so much like camouflage that he didn't want the Army thinking it was one of theirs. As if !


An allotment was a peculiarly English invention where you had a piece of land or were able to rent a plot from the local council/city to grow vegetables. Before I left UK to come here I had one down the end of the road where I lived. The garden of the house was for grass and flowers and the allotment was where you grew the cabbages and rhubarb. The one I had was about 100' x 60' and solid clay and I spent years digging in manure and compost and when rained the spade still got stuck, but it grew awesome rhubarb!



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Member Since
Oct 2009
Henrietta Giseppe said:
posted on Jul 22, 2010
These are wonderful

I love your stories, Alan!


Member Since
Feb 2010
Alan Stanley said:
posted on Sep 27, 2010
Henrietta's comment.

Thank you dear!