“You ask about my background, shall we have an "abridged version" to begin with? You see I have a good memory, in fact I can vaguely remember as far back as 1933, I was three years old. Born in Ashton-under-Lyne 1930 we belonged to the Army there, my Dad was in the band playing BBb and he was a good player. Everything was wonderful, and life centred round the S.A. Of course there were special events: Christmas, Harvest Festivals and one of the most important of all were the Whit Walks when all the Sunday Schools walked in procession around the town. What a day that was !! Non Conformists in the morning to be followed by the Catholic Church. The C.of E. in the afternoon. Every Church Sunday School hired a Band (Brass) so with the Bands playing and the Church bells ringing the excitement was tense. We had Divisional events and Manchester was a very big Division in those days. I do not remember but I understand we had Major (later Col.) Mary Booth as D.C. Major Edgar Grinstead was another DC, he became British Commissioner. Yes indeed everything was wonderful, we sometimes went shopping to Manchester, sometimes by train other times by tram. I liked the train but it was a long walk from M/C Vict. Station to Piccadilly, so perhaps the trams were better, that is if it was an Ashton Corporation tram rather than a Manchester one. Guess why. The Manchester ones sometimes had wooden seats and the vibrations tickled when you sat on them!! Yes it was wonderful until the 3rd Sept 1939, and my world was never quite the same after.
To begin with things were rather quiet, but one week before Christmas my father was knocked down by a bus during the blackout and died a fortnight later on 31st December. Mother then was responsible for my upbringing, and there was no Social Security then, so Mother went out to work in the cotton mill as a winder. It was hard work, 7 a.m. till 5-30p.m. and Sat morning. We attended the Meetings on Sunday, I was a Junior Soldier, in the Y.P. Band & Singing Company. (Have you ever thought about the terms and titles we use: Singing Coy. Songsters) and as the year wore on the air raid started. Ashton-under-Lyne is only six miles east of Manchester, so the Blitz cause some hair raising moments. One night I was wakened by my bed shaking, so I went into Mother’s room & wakened her thinking that there was an air raid, but the sirens had not sounded. (That was an awful sound, it made me feel quite ill) but what about this ""Air raid"". Nothing, perfect silence, I was12yrs old then and in charge of everything, so went to the road outside and asked an Air Raid Warden what had happened, but he told me to go back indoors. Next morning we were told there had been an earth tremor, so that was that. Another night we heard the sound of planes but as yet no siren. I cannot remember if we heard the explosion but in fact it was a Doodle Bug that exploded in Oldham just a few miles away, and after that we had quite a few of those wretched things. After the war I was traveling in Germany by train. We had to change at Pforseim (spelling may not be correct) a young man said that the town had been bombed, there was no unpleasantness but he made his point. "Yes" I replied "So was Coventry" Just then the train came. And maybe that could be for another "chapter".