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To War With The Bays: 80 – Nearing The End Of The Road

...I went dancing with Jessie. We gathered blackberries, something we used to do every year and take for granted. On Saturday I went to the rugby match with my parents...

After years of combat Jack Merewood enjoys to the full the delights of home.

To read earlier chapters of Jack’s wartime experiences please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/to_war_with_the_bays/

So here we were back at Catterick, but only overnight. The next day we received ration cards, a canteen issue and other necessities, and then were sent home on a month's leave. I had been home three months ago, but for most of the boys this was the first time for four years.

I arrived in Huddersfield at 5.20 p.m. 'To George Hall's, picked up Jessie and we came home in a taxi. HOME AGAIN, and you can't beat it - it's great to be home.'

I spent the first few days visiting relatives and friends locally and I wrote a lot of letters telling every¬one, especially my friends abroad, that I was now back in England for good. I wrote to Miss Store, Lucienne, Marie, Giuseppe, Signora Matarese, and I wrote to Suzette's aunt too.

I went dancing with Jessie. We gathered blackberries, something we used to do every year and take for granted. On Saturday I went to the rugby match with my parents. Then I had a busy week ahead. Audrey's parents had asked me to spend a few days with them, so I went to Tilford, first calling to see Major and Mrs Campbell, then to Audrey's - one morning taking a trip with her father on his milk round. Audrey, her mother and I went for a bicycle ride, and were excited to see Field-Marshal Montgomery in a passing car. He lived in the area.

After visiting Audrey I went to London to see Len Weightman. She was never a very exuberant person, but the war had broken her completely. Bob had been killed when baling out of his tank and I don't think his body was ever found. Then one day she arrived home from work to find that a bomb had fallen on the home of her mother, killing her and Len's young niece. She never recovered from these tragedies and I felt extremely sorry for her. I stayed with her over¬night.

Jessie's friend Margaret had now moved back to London. I met her and her boyfriend Martin, and we had lunch at the Regent Palace Hotel. It was the anniversary of the Battle of Britain, and we saw Mr Attlee, now Prime Minister, making a speech in Trafalgar Square.

Margaret, who had been writing to me since June, had photo¬graphs of a number of boys in her bedroom, and every night when she undressed for bed, she turned the photos round the other way! I stayed at her home overnight and next day we went round the usual London sights; then she saw me off at the station. We'd had a great day.

Except for my visit to Len, it had been a very happy trip, and when I arrived home Jessie had bought a record for me, a lovely surprise for it was one of my favourites - 'Your Tiny Hand Is Frozen', from La Boheme, sung by Gigli.

Ronnie had followed me from Foggia, arriving in England a few days later and wrote suggesting we meet at Blackpool for a short holiday. We arranged it for Saturday, 22 September, a local holiday (Honley Feast) when my father and Jessie both had Saturday to Tuesday off work. Not only did Jessie and I go to Blackpool to meet Ronnie, Emily and Ronald, but so did my parents and two of my aunts and uncles. We had four happy days together, dancing in the Tower, putting, visiting the Pleasure Beach.

Mr and Mrs Tatlow had asked me to go and visit them. This was another sad occasion. I was still feeling the loss of Stan, and I felt so sorry for his parents. Their home was as I had expected, a pleasant bungalow in a residential area of Solihull, Birmingham. I knew Stan had come from a good home and caring family. On the sideboard they had the photograph of Stan, Sid, Colin and myself, taken when we went to Cairo to collect the jeeps. They were lovely people, and I was sorry to leave them.

During this time I also visited Mr and Mrs Turner, who lived near Huddersfield. Ted Ryan and his wife Ada came from Wakefield and spent the day with us.

On 1 October, 1945, I had a letter from the War Office to say I was to attend an investiture at Buckingham Palace on 13 November to receive my Military Medal.

Then on the 2nd a letter arrived from Aumale — with Suzette's writing on the envelope. I had always hoped I'd hear from her again. She was still engaged and enclosed a photo¬graph of herself with her fiancé. She was sorry she had upset me months ago and wanted to be friends. Well — what would you ex¬pect? I could never have fallen out with her anyhow, and needless to say, I answered her letter straightaway. I felt happy just to be in touch with her again.


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