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To War With The Bays: 82 – A Medal From The King

Jack Merewood receives his award for gallantry from the King at Buckingham Palace.

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I was given a week's leave from 10 to 17 November because of the investiture on the 13th. At 9 p.m. on the 12th my parents, Jessie and I left Huddersfield for London and reached Euston Station at 5.45 a.m. From there it was to Lyons Corner House in the Strand for a wash and shave and breakfast.

I knew the place, having eaten here before, but this was my parents' first visit to London. Jessie had been just once before with a trip from school. So it was a day of great excitement; not only a trip to London, but a visit to Buckingham Palace too.

My parents were overawed by it all. We only had two tickets for the Palace besides mine, but luckily we met Jim Davidson, who had a spare ticket which he gave to Jessie. Jim used to drive the truck bringing petrol and ammunition to us at nights when we close leaguered. He had been awarded the MM too, and well deserved it.

At 10 a.m. we walked into Buckingham Palace, my father being admonished for not removing his trilby - a hat he only wore on Sundays and special occasions — as we passed through the door. There were rows of chairs arranged in a large room, seating for our relatives, and facing a small raised platform.

I was ushered into a room along with about 100 other men. We had safety pins fastened to the breast pockets of our battle dress blouses. From the window I could see the two princesses, Elizabeth and Margaret, walking in the garden.

The King, George VI, was standing on the platform. We were lined up in single file, and it was a very exciting moment when I heard my name called and I walked up to the platform. Someone was handing the medals to the King. He shook hands with me, asked what action I'd been in when I received the award and said, 'Well done.' Then he hooked the medal on to the safety pin.

It had been a memorable day for all of us. My parents travelled home after the ceremony, and Jessie and I stayed the night in London with Margaret.

Then it was back to Spilsby, only to learn we were about to move to Scunthorpe - perhaps we'd exhausted the local fields of their potatoes and sugar beet. Life was more pleasant in Scunthorpe than Spilsby, though they had potatoes and sugar beet there too, but it was a bigger town with a number of cinemas and dance halls and a YMCA.

The end of November came, the potato picking was finished, and the Army still didn't know what to do with us. They told us our demobs would come up early next year and sent us home on a week's leave.

My boss came to the house and asked if I would go and work in the bakehouse. I wasn't keen on that at all. I didn't want to think about a future in a bakehouse, but I agreed to help out. So for three mornings from 5.30 to 1 p.m. I went to work, and he gave me 30/-.

Then it was back to Catterick. Ronnie and I were finally to¬gether again, but we were so fed up - just waiting and waiting.

On 17 December I asked for Christmas leave, but was told by the Welfare Officer: ' . .. Sorry old man, etc. etc. Oh I wish they'd drop an atom bomb on this place and blow it to blazes.'

I tried again to get a pass for Christmas without success. Finally I decided that after having spent the last six Christmases away from home, pass or no pass I was going. I didn't care whether I got caught or not. So I left on the morning of the 24th and returned on the 27th, and I was never missed!

On 9 January I had another letter from Suzette, this time to tell me she was to be married on the 30th. I wrote and congratulated her. I wondered if her marriage would be a happy one. For her sake I hoped it would. She was so young.

31 January, 1946: 'I expect Suzette was married yesterday ...'

Names were now being posted daily on the notice board of men who were to be demobbed. A big boil came up on my arm, but no way was I going to go sick, and soon, to my delight, there was my name. To his disgust, Ronnie wasn't on the list, but he was demobbed a few days later.

Reveille was at 4.30 a.m. — even on demob day. About 150 of us paraded at 6 a.m. and were taken to Richmond Station in double-decker buses. At Strensall Barracks in York we were issued with a new suit, shirt, tie and other clothes, and for the first time for years I was called 'Mister'.

I was given a railway ticket to Huddersfield, and on 10 February, 1946, two days before my twenty-seventh birthday, I was out of the Army.


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