– After the War –
After the War, they began to build new houses in the fields up at the back of our town. The houses were needed to cope with the growing number of families with children. It was the time of the great Baby Boom.
After the War, Alec Wells and his family moved into one of the new houses. Alec built a little hut and kept two greyhounds in it. He said hardly a word to anyone. He had fought with the Eighth Army in North Africa, a Desert Rat, just like Granddad. The men called him ‘Bomber’ Wells; I never found out why.
After the War, our family moved into one of the new houses across the road from Bomber Wells. Dad had joined the Royal Navy just as the War was ending. He served on HMS Victorious, an aircraft carrier. He didn’t see any action, or so he said, but he stood in the rubble of Hiroshima after they dropped the bomb on it.
After the War, Andy Clark and his family moved in next door to us. Andy had joined the Army when the War started. He came home on leave one day to find that his mother and father and siblings had been wiped out in the Greenock Blitz. He was shot in the head on the first day of the Normandy Invasion, and part of his skull was replaced by a metal plate. He would go crazy whenever he drank whisky.
After the War, Eddie Maudsley and his family moved in a few doors along from us. Eddie had been a Sergeant Major in the Royal Engineers, a rank that he continued to hold in the Territorial Army. Having campaigned in North Africa and all across Europe, Eddie knew more than most about the War and how it was fought. He was persuaded to purchase all six volumes of Winston Churchill’s history, The Second World War, but when he realised what arrogant tripe that man had written he gave the books away; the last time I saw them, they were propping up the corner of our settee where the leg had broken off.
After the War, the Mathiesons moved in next door to Eddie Maudsley. Mr Mathieson was a Black American, the only coloured man in our town. He had been a GI during the War. His wife had a foreign accent. People said that she was probably a Jew who had survived the concentration camps, but no one spoke to her because she was loud and rude and sounded German.
After the War, Jimmy Martin and his family moved into our street. Jimmy told my mum once that he had been captured by the Germans early on in the War. He spent the remainder of the War working down a salt mine in France. He and his fellow prisoners weren’t treated badly, though, and they got on quite well with their guards. One day, when the Germans realised that the War was lost, the guards took Jimmy and the other prisoners down the mine and told them that they were going to be executed. But the guards cried and said they couldn’t go through with it and just left them there. Jimmy admitted that he hadn’t been right in the head ever since that day. He often sat for hours on end at the open window of his front room, watching the comings and goings on our street and shouting out insults at the people he saw.
After the War, Johnny Ward came to stay with his mum and dad round the corner from us. Johnny hardly ever ventured out of the house. It was said that he had been a Japanese prisoner-of-war for years and that, instead of going to bed at night, he would sit cross-legged in the dark in the front room, poking the coal fire and staring into the flames.
After the War, they eventually got round to clearing the field at the end of our street, pulling down the six-foot high barbed-wire fence and breaking up the concrete buildings which the fence enclosed. We children thought at first that it had been a camp for German prisoners-of-war, but we found out later that it was the barracks for the soldiers stationed around our town to protect the Forth Bridge from attacks by the Luftwaffe.
After the War, they tried to remove all the physical traces of the War from the towns and countryside. But they couldn’t remove the mental traces. In our little street and in a hundred thousand other streets, the memories of the War festered for a generation.
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