Kenneth Ashwood

Ship name / Flight number: Otranto

Arrival date: 14/09/1953

The writing of one’s own story is a well-trodden path for many and at the ripe old age of 83, I thought perhaps I might take that same path and see what comes of it. It will almost certainly be my only legacy, not that I have any great desire to leave a legacy either, but the following generations might find it interesting and perhaps want to add to it themselves.

I have no idea what I am going to write or what format it will take. Since I have always regarded my memory as being absolutely abysmal, I am already beginning to wonder if I will have anything to write about at all. Perhaps to go back to the very beginning and see if we can stir up the old grey matter into life is the way to go.

I was born on the 30th October 1935 and, apparently, I must have been in a hurry, because I was born in the ambulance on the way to the Sorrento Maternity Hospital in Moseley, Birmingham, UK.

Our Wedding Day

Can you imagine taking a ride in an ambulance of the early 1930’s vintage?

My father, Thomas Ashwood was 41 when I was born and my mother Florence Short) was 14 years younger at 27.

Dad had been married before, but sadly for him his first wife died after they were together for only five years; they had no children. This partially explains dad’s late start in becoming a father.

I was not the first born either, I should have had an older sister but, unfortunately, she died shortly after birth.  Neither mum nor dad ever spoke about dad’s previous marriage. This information came from another family member. How strange some of us are; one can only assume that back in those days the skeleton’s in the family closet were meant to stay in the closet!

Up until 1940, the beginning of my school days my memory is a blank; I have little or no memory recall, which is not a good start for any story.

I do not remember my grandparents and I cannot recall my parents saying a great deal about them either. I do recall mum saying her father was a bookmaker who would light his cigars with a five-pound-note when he was in the money and at the pawnbrokers shop when he wasn’t. A five pound note back then was a lot of money, so I have my doubts about that family tale.

The war years and my school days.

When war broke out in 1940, I was five years old and my sister Pat was just one year old. Our rented home at that time was no more than three miles away from the city centre in Bolton Road, Small Heath, Birmingham, a working-class suburb if ever there was one.

Terraced homes without front gardens, with the street footpath right at the doorstep and the streetlamps were gas lit. Like all working-class areas, industry was never far away and that was to ensure that the workers could easily walk to work. No cars in those days for the working man, he either walked, rode a bike or took a bus or tram.

This was the beginning of a terrible and tragic period and – being so young I was spared from the full impact of what was about to happen. War had been declared on Germany and the average person had no idea yet of what was about to happen and what impact it will have on all our lives. This was also the beginning of my school days under the threat of war. What we did not know at that time was that the death and destruction of war would be all around us, in our homes, streets, schools and workplaces.

Once the air raids had started the impact on ordinary everyday life was shattering. The destruction going on in Birmingham, Coventry, London, and dozens of other cities all over Britain was devastating. Ordinary homes and shops as well as factories were being flattened or set on fire with incendiary bombs. Water and gas mains were being blown up every day, helping to make life even more difficult and miserable. But worst of all, hundreds of men women and children were being killed on the streets and in their homes daily.

At the end of the war the death toll of civilians in Britain was almost 68,000 – the number of injured would have been greater.

While it is true that the enemy in the main were trying to destroy factories and army depots in the beginning, it did not stay that way for long before any target and civilians ended up being fair game. It was a time of survival & everything else was of no real consequence.

The air-raid shelter in the back garden was the family’s only protection from the bombings that were so prevalent during the early years of the war. The air-raid shelter was simply a hole dug in the ground roughly 8’x 6’and 3’deep (2.4×1.8×1.0) with heavy curved f shaped corrugated iron that formed the walls and roof, with an overall height of about 5’ (1.5). The entrance was just a small wooden door at one end and the soil from the hole was used to cover the iron to provide a little more protection from a bomb blast. A paraffin (kerosene) lamp would have been its only light and wooden bunks to sleep or sit on would be the only creature comforts. They were cramped and damp and if it rained it would be, well, a bit more than damp.  If this type of shelter suffered a direct hit it, I can assure you there would be a much bigger hole in the ground than the one that was first dug out. This type of shelter was known as a dug-out and just about every home with a garden in Britain had one.

Cities all over England were being bombed and thousands of ordinary people took cover in those crude shelters, many spending the night in these holes.

I cannot recall a great deal of what happened during the war years, so much of the ordinary everyday mundane things have been forgotten, but one or two events that did have some impact on my young mind I can still recall.

One of those incidents took place after a particularly bad air-raid the night before. My mother wanted to go shopping that morning to her local co-op store and the butchers that was part of her local group of shops situated on the busy Coventry Road.

We set off on foot, which was the main source of transport in those days, and along the way we saw many instances of the damage done by the Luftwaffe the night before. Wooden barricades had been put in place keeping people away from huge craters in the roads; some had broken gas and water mains creating further hazards and the ever-present threat of fire from the leaking gas mains.

Many homes had been flattened. And, as always, after an air-raid there was the fear of unexploded bombs, many of them half buried until the bomb disposal squads had done their work.

While still making our way to the shops we passed people queuing for water and many other groups cleaning up the debris. When we finally got to mum’s local shops, they were no longer standing; they too had been flattened during the night.

The constant air-raids must have caused me to dream about bombed buildings and I often dreamed about going inside these buildings before they had been cleaned up and being able to help myself to all sorts of goodies, mainly food and sweets that would have been scattered everywhere just waiting for me to come and help myself. Because of the rationing, sweets, including chocolate and tropical fruit were just about non-existent, so dreaming about such things for a kid would have been normal.

Another wartime memory I can recall was when my father took me out of our dugout shelter shortly after another night bombing raid and pointed up to the sky.  To my young eyes it seemed as if the sky itself was on fire – with huge flames weaving in and out of the very low clouds.

The Germans had hit a huge lumber yard with incendiary bombs causing the fire that destroyed it, also burning many wooden railway wagons that were close to the timber yard.

Another wartime memory I recall was when my dad, who did his share of home guard duty during the war, had to attend a parade of the Home Guard in our local Canon Hill Park.  I recall trying to lift his 303 rifle up into the firing position. I must have been about eight or nine at the time, and I recall thinking that my dad must be strong, because I had trouble just lifting it off the ground.

The close proximity of industry as well as a large railway marshalling yard, (which ran past the bottom of our garden), made this a rather dangerous place to live during the bombing.

The huge BSA or Birmingham Small Arms Factory was another place of interest to the Germans, because it was manufacturing much of Britain’s small arms and it was also making aircraft parts at that time.

So the family decided to move away from the industrial area of Bolton Road, Small Heath and move to a quieter area and where we rented a house in Lady Pool Road, Balsall Heath -which was a busy old-fashioned shopping street with most shops having the roll up canvas awnings giving a little protection from the weather and allowing the shop owners to display their fruit and vegetables or what-ever on the pavement.

It was while living at this address my youngest sister Pauline was born (on the 15 June 1943). I can remember this clearly because I heard my mother screaming out in pain during the birth from the upstairs window while I was playing outside.

The memory of her screams are forever indelibly etched in my mind. My sister Pat also remembers this day for the same reason, and she was four years younger.

The family made one more move during the war to Runcorn Road, and it was while living here the war came to an end. The family had just one more move to 36 Vincent Parade, Balsall Heath, and this remained the family home until I left in 1953. More about that later.

No precise dates have been recorded for this move, or any other for that matter, and I would have been about nine or ten year and attending Tindal Street Junior School. Again, my memory recall is poor.  What little I do have is surprising.

I can recall the Headmaster, Mr Laban and just a couple of teachers; mainly Miss Shut and Miss Scorer, who happened to own a little Austin 8 or 10 with the Registration No. DOC 8.

Of all the things that must have taken place during my junior years at that school, I remembered that teacher’s car’s number plate. Miss Shut would be remembered as a great exponent for swinging the 12 inch wooden ruler as a means of punishment, I’m sure she achieved about 500 hits a minute when fully pumped up, but it didn’t hurt at all.

I can recall the names of a few of my junior school friends including, Leonard Mountford, Deidre Young, Ann Dainty, Audrey Rose, Ray Green and Harry Millward; so many other names have long been forgotten with the passing years.

Junior school also had some musical appreciation classes which were no big deal, but what we did have, certainly gave me a liking for a lot of light classical music which I truly enjoy to this day.

During my school days I recall dad had a job with the Birmingham Corporations, Moseley Road tram depot. This later became a bus depot – around 1949. He was the body builder/repairer with his own workshop at the back of the huge depot, and I clearly recall him saying that the tools in his very large tool chest would one day be mine, and I was very impressed, because he said that many of the tools he had made himself while serving his apprenticeship.  He was clever man with his hands and some of this must have rubbed off onto me, because I followed in his footsteps in this regard with wood and metal work being my favourite classes during my schooldays- I might add, that working with my hands has been a great source of pleasure all my life and I always took pride in what I made, so I have my dad to thank for that.

In my junior years I was somewhat shy and probably a bit of a loner to some extent and the class distinction in our society that was so prevalent back then did not help me.  The financially privileged in those days certainly made their presence felt, and in spite of my tender years, I recall having a definite dislike for these pompous people, and they certainly made me very much aware of my family’s rather poor circumstances.

But, in spite of my dislike for the well-heeled, I would go for walks at dusk on my own into the well-to-do areas during the Autumn/Wintertime. The trees along the street would be bare and many homes would have the lights on in their lounge rooms enabling me to see the cosy interiors with a glowing fire adding to the atmosphere. I knew that there would be no cosy atmosphere like theirs at my home, and, if there was a fire at all, it would be a meagre one due to coal being both rationed and very expensive.

Leaving junior school to begin life in the rough and tumble of the senior school was rather frightening back in those times.

The senior school bullies would be looking forward to the new juniors coming in, giving them an opportunity to show the new kids who is boss, then putting them through the painful initiation. One was to put the new kid’s arms into the school fence bars in such a way that would allow the bullies to put awful pressure at the crook of the arm and have the individual crying out for mercy. The trouble was that if you did not stand up for yourself this sort of treatment would go on and I was copping it for a while from one particular individual until I decided I’d had enough and I lashed out with a good right and gave him a bloody nose and, as so often the case, we became good friends after that.

During our senior school days, we had both wood and metal work classes to prepare us working-class lads for the blue collar work we would inevitably be doing when our school days were over. Since Dennis Road Senior School did not have a woodwork class on the premises, we had to walk to a neighbouring school some distance away for this practical lesson regardless of the weather being wet and miserable, or fine.

I clearly recall on the blackboard in the wood working class two letters surrounded by a frame; the letters were CS. Mr Apps used to frequently tap on those letters when driving home a point and make us say, ‘It’s Common Sense Sir’! Little things that our memory retains after all these years, and yet so much has been forgotten.

My senior school days were void of the female variety. I think the idea of having male and females in the same class would have been considered too much of a distraction and schoolwork would have taken a secondary role in our thoughts, so perhaps there was some sense in separating the sexes.

I can remember a few of the teachers in the senior school. There was a Mr Griffith who wore thick glasses that taught history and somehow this was appropriate, because he just looked like an early ape man. The gym teacher was Mr Fryer who had very big feet and wore a size 12 shoe, so when he dished out his form of punishment on the boys, he used his plimsoll, more commonly known as sandshoes. He used to hold it by the sole and hit us with the heel end. Another rogue teacher was an Irishman named Mr Joe Stokes and when he got annoyed, he would wave his fist at the class and say: ‘You see this fist…It’s broke a man’s jaw, so – watch out!’

Another teacher was something of a clown, his name was Billy Biddle and he was famous for standing in front of the class with his hands in his pocket, doing what was commonly known among the lads as playing ‘Pocket Billiards’. In those days physical punishment was the norm and certainly would not be allowed today, but I think it served to keep many a wayward kid in check.

Mr Harris was the head teacher, but I cannot for the life of me recall him at all. During my senior school days, I developed some drawing skills. I liked to draw the Disney cartoons characters; I also liked sketching old historical English buildings. My friend Ray Green was also a good drawer and shared this interest with me.

During this period of my miss-spent youth I became interested in the railways. They were all around us with a double track goods line that ran above all the streets we played in. I recall that during, and shortly after the war, trains carrying American troops on this line. We used to call out to them for chewing gum. Chewing gum of course was rationed like everything else at that time, so when the ‘Dough Boys’ tossed down a few packets to us, we thought it was Christmas.

The railways of Britain at that time were in a very run down state and filthy dirty after five very demanding war years. But, in spite of the grime, this was an irresistible environment for me and thousands of other boys at that time, with steam locos both large and small dominating the landscape.

Our interest was also shared with much older guys who obviously had developed a love of the railway scene, but their knowledge went far beyond the past-time of just collecting train numbers that the younger ones did.

Eventually, most of us kids would also become more than just collectors of engine numbers; such was the fascination of railways. I spent many happy hours on my favourite station platforms around Birmingham and occasionally at other favourite spots that often entailed a short train journey. You could imagine what I must have looked like after spending a day hanging around the grime of a station in those days. I still have that passion for steam railways; it is well and truly in the blood.

My school days were coming to a close, and, looking back it would have been clear to a blind man that my education was somewhat lacking. Those ten years of schooling with World War II raging in the first five years and the following five years would have seen the country trying desperately to rebuild and repair the war damage and get back to pre-war conditions. An impossible task and it took many more years before that came about. So under these conditions – is it any wonder that my schooling left a great deal to be desired? But to be truthful I wasn’t exactly a brilliant scholar anyway. My school days came to an end in December 1950.

Ten years at school and all I have in the way of photos are just two tiny head and shoulder pictures taken in junior school and during all that time my family never owned a camera, so is it any wonder that so few photos exist from those days.

During those school and early workdays, I had a fairly large group of a dozen or so, friends many of those friendships started at school and others from the neighbourhoods I lived in at that time.

Many have passed away in recent years, some I have lost track of long ago, but I still have three that have remained lifelong friends.  Jimmy Burgess was one of my pals unlucky enough to lose his life while doing his two years National Service in Palestine; he would have been 19 when he died. Jimmy’s folks managed the Gentlemen’s Billiard Club adjacent to the bombed site we played on. Christmas was not far off and I recall his mother asking out of the blue; ‘What would you like for Christmas Ken’ This was a very big surprise for me; no one had ever asked me that before. You would assume that I would automatically ask for a toy of some kind, but I didn’t, I simply said that I would like a Christmas tree, which surprised Mrs Burgess. I think the tree was the one item that would make our home look a lot more like Christmas with a tree decorated with our own homemade decorations. So, I took home a real Christmas tree, thanks to Mrs Burgess…

As youngsters we got into our fair share of troubles, but nothing like the amount of vandalism and theft like there is today. During and after the war we had very special bonfires on Guy Fawkes Night. Bombed buildings were everywhere giving us unlimited supplies of wood for our bonfires.  When we could no longer collect it off the ground we would start pulling down what remained of the buildings that had been bomb damaged and were still standing for the heavy timber floor joists. All illegal and of course very dangerous, but it was how things were then. If that was not dangerous enough, we were still finding unexploded bombs and incendiaries. After every night’s visit by the Luftwaffe we would almost certainly see even more devastation, more unexploded bombs and of course more timber for our fires. We spent many happy on our bombed building site.

The beginning of my working life 

It was December 1950 when my school days did finally come to an end.  I was fifteen and about to start my working life, and the preparation that I had for this day was absolutely zero. There simply wasn’t any vocational guidance at that time, so most of us left school and went looking for work on our own. All this really was a sign of the times and very different from today.

My Dad knew the benefits of having a trade, but at no time did he ever sit down with me and have a talk about my future – perhaps he had his own problems that I did not understand at that time.

He did, however, go with me for my first interview for a sign-writing job, but there was no one in the office to interview me. From then on, any job I did get was due to my own efforts.  My working days in the UK amounted to less than three years and I had three jobs in that period. Not exactly what you might call a stable period in my life. The first job was at Horrell & Bowman, just walking distance from home; working as a fire grate fixers mate. It only lasted about three months then I moved on to Taylor & Challen, a large engineering firm located near the centre of the city that made industrial presses up to 200 ton capacity and rolling mills that were used for pressing and stamping metal.

I worked there for about 18 months as a trainee bench fitter. It was skilled work which I enjoyed doing, because I was working with my hands helping to make the machinery that rolled out the metal strips that would be fed into a press to stamp out coins. I eventually left that job and ended up at my final job with Hallam, Sleigh & Chesterton manufacturers of car body components. I remained with them until I left for Australia.

During this working period of my life I spent much of my spare time with my school and neighbourhood mates. The days of playing on our local bombed building site had come to an end, but we still used it as a meeting place and often decided what we might do together that day. Many of the lads used to go dancing on a Saturday night, but I was not into dancing which really is strange, because that was certainly one way of meeting girls.

It was during this time that I met my first girlfriend; I cannot recall how I met her, but I suppose that is not important. Rita was part of an all-female family with her grandmother, mother and two younger sisters,

I spent a lot of time at Rita’s house, because I felt at home there and was made so welcome. I used to call Rita’s mother ‘mum’ because she treated me like a son.

The start of my working life put a few shillings into my pocket, so for the first time I was able to afford to go to the pictures etc. It certainly was a simple lifestyle; there was never enough money for anything other than the basics. This was the environment I was bought up in and it was the norm for us all, we never considered ourselves as being deprived, because what you never had you did not miss.

It was most definitely a make and mend time, which is why we consider today’s generation as being very wasteful in many ways.

Australia is on the horizon

I met an old school friend Harry Millward (later to become my brother-in-law), late one night on the way home in February of 1953. During this meeting Harry informed me of his intention to migrate to Australia. He had his interview and medical some time earlier and was simply waiting for his sailing date to arrive from Australia House in London.  He went on to say that none of his mates were interested in joining him but asked if I would be. I said that I had not thought about going anywhere and I simply forgot about it. But, that wasn’t going to be the last of it, because about a fortnight later we bumped into each other again and this time he had been informed of his sailing date and if I recall correctly he was due to sail in April 1953 with the Big Brother Movement.

Before we parted company that night, I promised I would write to Australia House and see what happens. There was always a chance that I may fail the medical or something else may prevent me from going and with those thoughts, I suppose I was not really taking this idea seriously: on the other hand if I did get the green light, what the heck – I’d see a little of the world and I could return after two years.

You are probably wondering how young boys (15 to 17) are migrating to Australia, thousands of miles away without their families? The idea of young boys leaving home on their own without the benefit of parental control was almost unheard of.

Back in the early 30’s the Big Brother Movement was set up to bring out young guys to Australia with parental consent to work on farms and learn trades. Boys came out to a nominated ‘Big Brother’ on a one on one basis, but later due to the larger number of boys going to Australia, they were given the name of a Big Brother in their area when seeking advice or help.

The Governments of both Britain and Australia with the White Australia Policy still in force at that time were making sure that Australia remained predominantly British and the Big Brother Movement was playing its part in all this and was responsible for bringing out many thousands of lads before it all came to an end in 1982.

I did write to Australia House and got the ball rolling, starting with a medical and dental check. During this time Harry finally sailed with a group of about 40 boys from all over the British Isles on board the Orient Lines, 20,000 ton ship, the Otranto. She had been a troop carrier during the war and then converted for carrying migrants after the war.

Now it was a waiting game, firstly to see if I had been accepted, then finally the sailing date.

Somehow, I thought that I would not be going anywhere and that may have been wishful thinking.

I would at times look quietly at my mates and the thought of not seeing them again was awful and the same thoughts I had with my own family and the girl I was still keeping company with. So, what the hell was I thinking about? ‘Am I going to Australia or not?’.

All these thoughts of uncertainty kept going through my mind.

I had not thought how my going away would affect my own family if it all came to fruition, I had not spared a moment to think what it might do to Mum with me being the only son; such was the mindless thinking of a 17 year old teenager.

Dad did not say much at all during this period which could be misconstrued as not caring, or perhaps he was not capable of showing it. He spent very little time with me or my sisters. Because of this I never really got to know my dad; perhaps his being an older father and his war experiences may have had something to do with this. He was in his forties when I was born and close to 50 when Pauline was born.

In spite of this, I did love my dad, but sadly nothing ever changed between us right up to the time I left for Australia, because I was underage, we never had a chance to enjoy a pint together in a pub. At that time, we were not considered adults until we turned 21 and not allowed to drink in licensed premises until we turned 18 and I was only 17 when I left home.

The day the letter arrived from Australia House with the sailing date was reality day. This letter spelt it out for the first time fully to both me and my family that I really was going to leave home and I would not be back for at least two years. The tears in mom’s eyes said it all.

The letter stated that I would be sailing on the Otranto from Tilbury Docks on the 10th August 1953 and while I cannot recall what time I had to prepare, it could not have been more than 4 or 5 weeks. So, it clearly was going to be a busy time and I would need to work right up to the last minute, because I needed every penny. Wages were poor and saving for anything was difficult, I did not even own a camera and I wanted to take photos of the family and friends before I left. I bought a second-hand box camera and took a few photos of the people who were important to me; unfortunately, the camera proved to be faulty allowing some light to enter that ruined many of the films taken and no time left to take more.

This journey I was about to embark on taking me to the other side of the world did not require a passport; for this was a one-way trip. Only a document of identity was necessary, which was supposed to be handed over on completion of my journey. I still have it today simply because no one asked me for it.

By now my days in the place I knew so intimately were well and truly numbered. I was trying to take in fully all that I was looking at and hoping to be able to remember it all. I will always cherish the memories of those days.

The time for goodbyes has arrived. I rode my bike 35 miles to Bridgnorth a country town in Shropshire, where my father’s family lived, that holds many happy memories for me with so many aunts, uncles and cousins that I said goodbye to. I also said goodbye to my workmates, then it was finally goodbyes to all of my friends.

My memory started going into overdrive thinking of the years of happy childhood and early teen years with many friendships going back to junior school days.

 Hours spent on our bombed building site playground that Jerry (Germans) made for us during bombing raids on Birmingham. If any of us found ourselves at loose ends with nothing to do – we simply went to our bombed building site and the chances would be that one or more of our mates would be there.  The gang huts we built as little kids were made from the debris that came from the bombed buildings; the timber came from damaged buildings for our bonfires we had on Guy Fawkes Night, the scrumping (stealing fruit from trees in peoples back gardens). The bike rides into the country, singing as we travelled along. Going to the pictures on a Sunday afternoon and hoping to meet up with some girls. The one interest I did pursue alone was train spotting and I cannot recall how I became interested in all things railway, especially the steam locos of the day, because none of the other lads took any interest in railways at all.

 So this then was the beginning of the end of my childhood and early teen years; I was about to embark on a new life that would take me away from all that I have known.

My family, friends, and the only place I had known from day one; the streets of our suburbs of Birmingham that I had lived in.  My 10 precious school years so full of friendships and so many other happenings both joyful and sad that no doubt helped to make me what I am today are going to be left behind.

 The very idea of a 17 year old leaving home alone, leaving behind Mom, Dad and two younger sisters was unheard of in our little corner of the world, but it was about to happen and it would most certainly be a very sad and emotional day for us all. My one cheap suit case was packed with what few possessions I had and just 10 pounds in my pocket that was the sum total of my worth and about to embark on a 12,000 mile journey to Sydney Australia with no real idea of what lay ahead.

 Most of the lads were positive about my leaving and wished me well, but one close friend was rather upset with the idea of me leaving and said so. I’m happy to say we are still great mates and distance has not changed that.

 On many occasions over the years I have been asked, how did I managed to pluck up enough courage to leave my family at that age and there was only one answer I could give. I knew that the commitment was for two years, but after that period if I so desired and had my fare saved I would be able to return home. So, seeing it simply as a two year stint enabled me to see it as an adventure at that time it never occurred to me that I may have had a real problem saving the fare, but as you will soon see the return fare was not required

Departure day

 Departure day finally arrived; a day we all knew would come.  But I had not talked about it to any appreciable degree, possibly because the whole idea of my leaving was a little too painful for us all.

Harry’s brother Bill took us all in his little van to New Street Station, the very station with all its soot and grime that I had spent so many happy hours train spotting over the past six years and departing from this station was the beginning of what I have always regarded as the unhappiest journey of my life.

I had said to the family some time ago that I did not want them to come down to Tilbury Docks to say goodbye, I’d rather say goodbye at New St. station in Brum.

Having tearfully hugged and kissed Mum, Dad, Pat and Pauline and shook hands with Bill, I boarded the train and watched a sad small group standing on the platform slowly disappear in the smoky distance. Little did I know at that time in saying goodbye to my family that I would be saying goodbye to my dad for the last time.

A journey by train under normal circumstances would have been heaven – looking out for locos that I had not spotted before and generally delighting in the journey, but this trip however was very different. There would be no such happiness on this one; I sobbed the whole journey through and I chose not to sit in a compartment, instead I sat on my suitcase in the corridor all the way to London and it wasn’t until I finally met up with the other little brothers that I was able set aside my sadness for a while.

The 10th August 1953 is a date that is indelibly etched in my memory forever.

Having got to Tilbury, RMS Otranto was in Tilbury docks London waiting for its passengers, including 23 little brothers – and we are all about to meet each other on board for the first time. We were also about to meet the Melbourne schoolteacher who had been working in England with the schoolteacher exchange program and was returning to Aussie and had volunteered to chaperon us 23 lads to the land down under. I think it was possibly a decision he was sorry he made long before the journey’s end.

It was early afternoon (1.30 pm) when the Otranto finally dropped her mooring ropes and slowly left the dock at Tilbury. I recall clearly standing on an upper deck alone and watched as the dock buildings receded into the distance. You can imagine what sort of things were going through my mind. I could not help but wonder when I would see my homeland again and my family and friends. What does lie ahead of me? Is this a mistake that I shall regret? My thoughts were 100% negative and I was feeling vulnerable, because I was aware that for the first time in my life I was without family and friends. I really did feel very much alone, and I think it took me awhile to come out of my shell and to start taking note of what was going on around me.

That first night I recall how smooth the boat felt not even a slight list or pitching of any kind, and it stayed that way even after I had gone down to my cabin and fell asleep, but when I woke up the following morning the ship was definitely pitching slightly which made me think that I may end up being sea-sick, but that would eventually prove not to be a problem for me, even a rough run through the Australian Bight was no problem.

A few days passed and I was getting to know my fellow Little Brothers who by this time were also getting to know some of the other passengers, and in particular, three rather attractive sisters.

Believe it or not I was a little shy in my early teen years and a little apprehensive when it came to meeting a girl for the first time. I recall saying to Ted Harris who was rather friendly with one of the sisters that I wouldn’t mind dancing with her elder sister. Without waiting for further explanation, he went over to the older sister and said to her that the guy over there wants to dance with you, and apparently he was told ‘that if he wants to dance, he can ask me himself’ and that is how my friendship began with the girl who would ultimately be my wife and partner for life.

So began our life together aboard the Otranto which would be my home for the next 34 days. The Otranto was one of several ships to be built replacing many ships that had been sunk during the First World War. She was a 20,000 ton liner built in 1925 and travelled between England and Australia and also served as a cruise ship travelling to Scandinavia and the Mediterranean. During the Second World War she was converted to a troop carrier and finally being converted to a one class migrant ship to bring the likes of me to Australia. After 32 years service she ended up in the breakers yard in 1957.

I did keep a little diary during the voyage, but it was so basic and would prove to be very boring to repeat the daily goings on from it, so I will keep it short and sweet.

My four berth cabin had no porthole and I cannot recall if we were below the water line or perhaps in a cabin away from the hull of the ship, but I do recall this ship groaning all night long and could also feel the rumble of the engines. I think they called this steerage, being equal to third class and the cabins usually situated aft, close to the propellers. However, it did not detract from what was a pretty good experience and it can’t be that bad when you are woken up each morning with a cup of tea and a biscuit by your cabin steward. The average day on board was a mixture of playing games like table tennis or quoits or chatting with friends and looking forward to the next meal. In the evenings there was always a dance on somewhere, or a drink maybe in the ‘PIG & Whistle’ and others would enjoy being on deck possibly enjoying a sing along with someone playing a guitar?

The other twenty-two Little Brothers were making friends among themselves and with other passengers. Ted was keeping company with Audrey’s sister Betty and Shirley the youngest of the three sisters was friendly with Ron Bland another Little Brother.

Much of the journey was very hot especially when crossing the equator and during this period we slept on deck. This was a very happy time for me, because I spent a lot of time getting to know Audrey. We chatted often into the wee small hours of the morning talking about anything and everything. I cannot recall clearly what I may have said, but I could imagine telling Audrey about my hopes and aspirations. All this waffling on coming from a 17 old that had just left home and had no idea what might be ahead. I wonder what Audrey must have been thinking about all this.

I recall at this time being very much aware of the age difference between us I knew that Audrey was 21 and I was not quite 18, so I tried hard to keep my juvenile status to myself for fear that she would quickly lose interest in me and I did not want that to happen. She looked absolutely lovely, so slim weighing little more than eight stone. Most of the time she wore light feminine blouses and white short shorts; she sure had me hooked.

I recall so many days on board with nothing but the ocean to look at and in those idle moments my mind would go back to all those I had left behind and the things that I used to do and wondered if I would ever get back and see them again. It was always my intention to return; I don’t think I could have left in the first place without that in mind. But in the meantime, I had a lovely distraction from those thoughts of home.

My diary reminded me that we called into Gibraltar first and then onto Naples, Port Said, Aden, Colombo, Fremantle, Adelaide, Melbourne and finally Sydney. Our journey was a total of 12,508 miles beginning at Tilbury, London on the 10th Aug and arriving Sydney on the 14th Sept.

I mentioned earlier that my diary entries were brief, and I will not get too detailed about the time spent aboard, however meeting up with Audrey was without any doubt was the best part of that voyage.

It was 11 am on Sunday 6th Sept when we finally reached Fremantle, Audrey’s home port and our first sighting of Australia. The Otranto finally docked at 12.30; I would have liked to have spent the day with Audrey seeing Fremantle with her, but unfortunately our brief stay in port had all been organised by the Victoria League of WA, starting with a coach trip to Perth. Our first stop was at Perth zoo and then onto Kings Park. This was a beautiful introduction to Australia as it is for most people seeing it for the first time. At that time it was a very different skyline to what it is today. No Narrows bridge for a start and I think the tallest building then would have been no more than 10 or 12 stories. Kings Park War Memorial was just being completed at that time. We then paid a visit to the University of WA and then saw some of the local beaches. Finally we drove into a large garden with a lovely old world single story home owned by the President of the Victoria league of WA. All 23 little brothers tumbled out of the coach and onto a large front veranda with two large tables filled with food. Our introduction to beautiful Aussie food and if I recall correctly it was well filled sandwiches, fruit etc.

I mentioned earlier that it was early September and I recall the people who were showing us around had warm coats on in contrast to us lot being Brits of course, taking off our jackets, because we regarded it as being a bit hot. I suppose this was a taste of things to come and knowing that we would have to go through a period of acclimatisation in a land we knew was going to be much warmer than England. Much of the minor details of these times have gone from my memory, but if I sound rather positive with these dates etc. it’s because it was information that I jotted down in my diary at that time that I still have; one of the benefits of being a hoarder. I still have letters from Martin Curley and other old mates going back to 1954.

We finally ended up back at the old Otranto to find the girls with their family waiting on board. We were introduced to them and we must have talked until about 9.30 when an announcement was made asking all who were not sailing to leave the ship. We said our goodbye’s shouting over the ships rails down to all standing on the quay and finally the Otranto sailed at 10 pm.

We woke the next morning to the ship ploughing through a terrific swell that ended up being a right old storm. Furniture was being thrown about and the decks were lashed with ropes to keep us away from the rails. No hot meals of course, but even the cold meals ended up all over the place. Had an early night for a change, my lovely distraction was no longer aboard.

The next morning was not much better, wet and cold and I spent most of the day in the cabin writing letters and the night in the ‘Pig & Whistle’ enjoying a sing-a-long with a drink and went to bed early; I had nothing better to do and I was clearly missing my lovely ship mate.

Arrived at Port Adelaide on Thursday 10th Sept at about 11 am, the Victoria League again picked us up and went by train from Port Adelaide to Adelaide City. We had lunch in a café or perhaps it was a dining room; I recall the building being built like a log cabin.

It was overcast with intermittent rain during our visit which is why we spent most of our time seeing the sights of Adelaide from the coach. We saw briefly the University of Adelaide, St. Peters Cathedral and among other sights we saw the statue of Col. William Light, Adelaide’s founder and Surveyor who was responsible for Adelaide being a lovely open and well-planned city.

The Otranto sailed at 6.45 pm and I must have slept well that night, because I did not wake up in time for breakfast and had to wait until dinner for my next meal; I must have been very hungry to record this in my little diary. A quiet day with wind and little sun and the ship’s crew busy getting ready for our arrival in Melbourne tomorrow. We docked about 7.30 am and once again we were on a coach seeing the sights of Melbourne. We had lunch in the YMCA Hostel, courtesy of the Victoria League. The ship sailed at 5 pm leaving several late passengers standing on the dockside.

Sunday 13th Sept 1953 our final day aboard the Otranto and all of us are very busy doing our washing, ironing and packing. A little sad really, because it has been a wonderful experience, especially being the first time aboard a large ship, meeting up with all the other Little Brothers and having a great time sleeping on the Poop deck on hot nights and above all else, the place where I met a very special girl that I hoped I would meet again one day.

We docked in Sydney at 1 pm and said goodbye to our chaperone Gordon Jones and boarded a coach ready to take us to be examined by a doctor and also have a chest x-ray at a hospital close to the Sydney Harbour Bridge; our first close up look at this magnificent structure. With our health checks done it was back to the coach and headed out for the Big Brother Movements War Memorial Training farm at Carmsley Hill at Bossley Park near Liverpool on the outskirts of Sydney. We arrived at the farm about 2.30 in the afternoon and were informed that we would be doing some work before tea and to get into our working clothes. We all thought this was a bit rugged, but for some unknown reason we never did do any work that day.

My time at the training farm was just one month and the amount of training we got did little to prepare us for work on any farm. I never rode a horse or drove a tractor. I do recall being a little concerned about the small amount of money lasting long enough to keep me in tobacco, because we had no wages while at the training farm. Clearly, I needed to start work so that I had money for all my needs.

The lads after a while were starting to wonder about what farm they would be sent to, there were so many unanswered questions such as: How far away will the job be? What sort of farm, will it be sheep, cattle, or possibly a dairy? What sort of person will the farmer be? How much will I get paid? Our futures are completely unknown and being young teenagers many thousands of miles from home, was it any wonder that we were all somewhat concerned.

The day finally came when I was told that I would be going to a small mixed farm just outside of Young in central NSW and I would be leaving on Friday 16th Oct. I would have forgotten this date, but I did note it in my diary at the time. I do not recall saying goodbye to any of the boys specifically other than Ted, but I must have done and I knew that Ted was keeping in touch with Audrey’s sister Betty so we had something in common, because I was also keeping in touch with Audrey. We both hoped that perhaps one day we would meet again.

The 22 other little brothers that I came to Australia with would eventually go their own ways and with few exceptions we would not see each other again.

My first job on a farm near Young, NSW

Friday the 16th arrived; I had my case packed and was given a train ticket and taken to Sydney’s Central station to catch my train to Young, a distance of roughly 220 miles or 360 kilometres and took about five hours in a steam hauled train to get there. The only time I had been totally alone since leaving my family on New Street Station in Birmingham, was the train journey down to London. On the Otranto I had the company of 22 boys for the duration of the voyage which lasted 5 weeks and a further month on the Training Farm.

I travelled on a local train to Sydney’s Central Station and changing for a steam hauled train to Young. I recall being met by a very pregnant farmer’s wife in a large dark blue 1948 V8 Ford sedan. The distance from the town centre to the property was about 15 miles (24 kilometres) and it was a gravel road all the way with the lady traveling at what I thought was too fast a speed on such a road. But I soon learned that this is normal for outback Australia with generally long distances to travel, country people tend to put their foot down.

We finally drove into the properties driveway and I am seeing for the first time my new place of work and home for who knows how long. I notice the farmstead is surrounded by a picket fence with trees, shrubs and gardens within its boundary making it look very homely. By contrast the wide-open area surrounding the farmstead has few trees.

Having had a quick look at the homestead and its surroundings I could not help wondering where my room would be. The house did not seem large enough, having been told on the drive here that she was expecting her eighth child; I learn later that they are a good Catholic family.

I soon find out that my room was not in the house at all and was taken to a corrugated iron hut in the paddock a hundred yards or so from the main house. When I opened the door and stepped inside my first thought was,’ what have I done? is this what I have travelled half-way round the world for’. I was now feeling very despondent with the prospect of having to live here for God knows how long. I was looking at a single metal framed bed in one corner, a small wardrobe and table, a galvanised tin bath with a showerhead above it, not a very inviting room at all.

The floor was concrete, and the timber frame was undressed timber posts. There was a single bare light globe hanging from the ceiling and there was water in the shed, but no means of heating it. After the initial shock of seeing this miserable room I got changed into my work clothes to help with the dairy before the evening meal.

I was not in a good mood at all after what I had seen, and I was feeling very resentful having to work that very day. The afternoons milking was waiting to be done and that meant lighting a boiler that was a wood burner for sterilizing all the gear ready for milking possibly 50 cows and at the end all the milk had to go through a separator and be turned into cream; apparently we were too far away from the milk factory to send milk. Once the cows had been milked and the milk put through the separator, we were left with the cleaning up of the dairy which included a fair amount of manure which tends to get very sloppy in and around the milking shed. Only when everything was squeaky clean using plenty of hot water from that boiler and hosing down the shed and yards could we start thinking about the evening meal. This then was to become a twice daily ritual for the remainder of my working time here and that included Christmas day.

I cannot recall how that first meal was with the family, but I must have felt somehow isolated and even unwanted and not looking forward to sleeping in the tin shed out in the paddock. That first night was a real worry for me, because the door of the shed had about a three (3) inch gap under it and having been told about all the deadly snakes and spiders in Australia, I laid awake half the night watching that bloody door. I finally fell asleep only to be awakened in the dead of night with a strange scraping sound going on against the walls of the shed. The shed was shaking, and I was just about demented wondering what was going on and I wasn’t game to go outside to find out. I was later told it was most likely the horse rubbing its rump on the corrugated walls. Not a very auspicious beginning for me on the farm, that’s for sure.

Clear View was the name of this small mixed farm of about 300 acres and I say mixed, because John Roles, the owner, apart from the dairy also bred pigs that enjoyed being fed the whey that remains after the milk has been separated into cream.  One of the obvious benefits of running a dairy was that there was always lots of milk and cream at the meal table.

He also had a huge amount of free-range chickens and sheep and that meant lamb was often on the menu. I recall seeing my first sheep being hung up by its hind legs from a tree that had no doubt seen many sheep hanging from it and then watching John swiftly cut the animal’s throat which he must have done hundreds of times before and in no time it was cut up ready for the families need.

The 1500 acre property next door belonged to Mrs Role’s father and mother and we often worked over there, dipping the sheep etc.

John Roles also share farmed about 2000 acres from a Colonel Anderson and I was there to coincide with harvesting the wheat crop unfortunately, I say that because I had just turned 18 and had done no real heavy lifting at all and those bags of wheat weighed 180 pound each (30 pounds heavier than I was) and it took all my strength to lift those bags.

After completing the morning dairy job, we would have breakfast and then drive a few miles down the Moppity Road in the old Ford truck. The boss would do a run around the paddock on the harvester and then he would discharge the load of wheat into several wheat bags that I held while doing it, before taking off again leaving me to sew up those bags before he came back with the next load. This is where I learned to loathe flies having to suffer them crawling around my eyes nose and any other orifice, I foolishly left open. Late afternoon the boss would call it quits and then we had to load these heavy wheat bags onto the back of his old Ford truck and take them back to his farm, unload and stack them into the barn. But that was not the end of the day’s work, because that dairy was waiting for us, which would take another couple of hours or so before we could sit down and have tea. Clearly, I was having trouble settling into life on the farm, but I know it is early days yet.

By the time we had the dairy finished, the milk separated into cream and everything cleaned ready for the morning it would be around 6 or 6.30 and I would make my way back to my corrugated tin hut in the paddock and have a clean-up before heading over to the house for dinner.

Memory or more correctly the lack of it has been a problem for me all along. I worked at this farm for about six months and sat at their table and had my meals with about eight members of the Roles family every day and I have retained very few memories of how it was with them. I do recall feeling a little awkward and possibly shy at first with a totally strange family and I don’t think I ever felt part of the family at any time simply because they never really invited me into it and not forgetting my corrugated iron clad shed/ bedroom away from the homestead only reinforced my feeling of being an outsider.

I do recall one rare instance – being all dressed up ready for going to the movies after tea with John, his wife and their eldest daughter who would have been about my age. Everyone was sitting at the table about to eat their evening meal and I was trying to open a new bottle of sauce with a tight cap that I could not open. I decided to turn the bottle upside down and give the bottle a hefty thump, but unbeknownst to me there was a crack around the bottle’s neck, and it broke completely when I hit it. I ended up with the sauce in my lap which the kids thought hilarious, however I managed to get my trousers cleaned and dried ready for going out.

After tea we all got aboard the big V8 Ford with their eldest daughter and me in the back. It was during this run into town that night that I found out for the first time that this girl was interested in me, because her hand found mine in the dark and she held it quite firmly as if to prevent me from taking it away. At this point I thought that if I played my cards right, I might marry the farmer’s daughter and inherit the farm. I’m joking of course, it would never happen, what with seven kids in the family and another on the way, I’d have Buckley’s chance of inheriting anything.

One day a letter came from Audrey saying that she and Betty had decided to come to Sydney and would be staying with their aunt and uncle. This certainly was good news and I knew that I would have to leave this job, but giving my notice was something I would not enjoy doing. However, a few days later the boss and I exchanged a few words that I thought was not justified, but it gave me the excuse to tell him that I was leaving.

Thinking back to that time, working about sixty-five hours a week and being paid 15 pounds a month, I repeat a month, that was really was cheap labour. So is it any wonder that farmers like John Roles used the Big Brother Movement for cheap farm hands and no sooner had a Little brother left, they would no doubt apply for another.

My time as a farm hand at Clear View was coming to an end; this city boy that had temporarily turned country bumpkin for just six months was heading back to the city to meet up with the girl that he had fallen in love with on the Otranto.

I was taken to the railway station at Young and boarded the train for Sydney and I did not have a clue to where I might end up. For a start, I was without a job and had very little money and not sure of where I was going to live.  I had not yet met my distant relations who lived in Sydney’s Western suburbs and it was their home that I decided to head for. They had no idea that I was about to knock on their door. Heaven knows what they must have thought when they first saw me, a strange teenager with a suitcase on their doorstep.

However, I need not have worried, I must have explained my predicament and got a sympathetic hearing, because even though they only had a two-bedroom home, I was offered the back veranda as a temporary bedroom. It was a typical enclosed veranda with louvered windows overlooking the back garden and this was to be my home for the next nine months or so.

I now had a home at 64 Mons Street, Lidcombe and the next most important requirement was to get a job to pay for my board & lodgings with John & May Hinton and that need was filled with me finding work at the Commonwealth Aircraft Plant in Lidcombe dismantling Rolls Royce Merlin engines.

I am now gainfully employed with a roof over my head and the reason for coming to Sydney in the first place is here and I am referring to that delightful creature that I had fallen for on the boat. The future is beginning to look great, what more could I ask for at this moment.

John & May (Hinton) were proving to be a nice couple along with their young son Wayne who would have been about four. John was a Railway Man and an ex steam train driver and with my railway interest we had a lot in common to talk about, but John also had a broad general knowledge and so we enjoyed many a long chat after tea.

May was a very good cook and so sitting down for a meal was always an enjoyable occasion; she was also a very proud housewife and kept thing spotless including their son Wayne who was not allowed out very often for fear of him getting dirty. I recall the day a pile of chook manure had been tipped into the back garden and Wayne somehow got out and was sitting in the middle of this manure eating it and when his mother came out and saw what he was up to she almost had a fit.

In the meantime Audrey and her sister Betty were settling down with their aunt and uncle out on the outskirts of Sydney in Leppington, but their stay was little more than three weeks, because the girls got jobs at the Egg Marketing Board in Lidcombe and ended up in a bedsitter in Strathfield.

I recall going out to Leppington for the first time and being introduced to her Uncle Joe and Aunt Bella Harding and sitting at the table having a meal, when out of the blue uncle Joe said that he had been told that I was a bit of a pickpocket and needed to be watched, he was joking of course and it was his way of trying to make me feel at ease and shortly after he tried to make out that he heard Audrey calling out repeatedly in her sleep for Ken, making us both a little red faced, keeping in mind that I had only just met them, but it didn’t take long to get to know the old devil and what he was capable of.

These were our courting days getting to know one another with all the ups and downs that go with a new relationship and our age difference was not helping things either. Audrey was 22 at this time and I was still only 19, I was not sure if she did in fact know my real age which no doubt would be of concern for her, because I had already asked her to marry me. I had known from the beginning that she was the girl for me and now I had to somehow prove to her that I was mature and sincere enough for her to agree to marry me.

These were happy times, we often went out with Ted & Bet and occasionally with Harry and Shirley, going to Sydney visiting the Harbour Bridge, picnics in Nielson Park Vaucluse, Watsons Bay and going to the Blue Mountains and the Jenolan Caves. None of us owned cars at this time, so all our travelling was done using either the trains, buses or shanks pony. I am obviously settling into my new surroundings happily.

Audrey and Betty had moved again and now renting rooms with an old couple by the name of Mr & Mrs Larkin at 18 Water Street, Lidcombe which was much closer to their work and also closer to me living at 64 Mons St, Lidcombe. This house in spite of it being a timber framed structure still stands today and is amazingly the same, even the front fence is still there; it is a real time warp.

During this period my old mates in the UK no doubt was getting to know the opposite sex, one or two may have had girlfriends, but I don’t think any were planning on marriage;

I seemed to be in a bit of a hurry, perhaps it was the girl in question, or was it a case of being so far from my family, making our friendship very important to me, but the truth is that I was head over heels in love with the girl.

I was writing the odd letter or two telling the guys what a beaut girl I had met on the boat and how we had got together again in Sydney; enjoying our courting days and eventually informing them that we planned to get married. They replied saying how lucky I was to get such a catch and wishing us all the best for the future.

I finally got a yes from Audrey, she was now well aware of my age which was no doubt the reason that took her so long in giving me an answer, she needed time to get to know me better and be pretty sure that we suited each other before making any decision of such importance.

Our courting days continued, but parting every night was not what we wanted and the idea of getting married sooner rather than later was something we were looking into now. Being engaged was the first step in this regard and we decided to go to Sydney to buy an engagement ring from Proud’s, which we did. Audrey picked out the ring she wanted and so we became engaged without any ceremony for this occasion.

Since Audrey’s family and mine were many thousands of miles away we thought that a Registry Office wedding would be the easiest and cheapest option for us, but when Audrey mentioned this to her aunt Bella, she wouldn’t hear of it. She said ‘You can be married in my church and have your reception at our home in Leppington’ We must have said to her that we had very little money and that was the reason for a registry office wedding, but she convinced us that the cost would not be a problem, because the family collectively would arrange it and make it an all-round nicer day for the family to celebrate the day with us. Such was the kindness of Audrey’s family and it certainly was a lovely generous gesture.

It had become clear that our wedding was going to be a whole lot nicer now that it would include the family Audrey and I had living in Sydney. So much of the details and what we did leading up to our chosen day are lost in the mist of time, but we now had the chosen church and wedding breakfast venue.

We would have chosen the date for the wedding to coincide with Audrey’s families being able to organise the reception for us. Audrey bought the dress she wanted from a shop in Sydney, but I have no idea where I got my suit from. We also managed a photographer and cannot recall how that came about, but so glad we did, because not only do we have a lovely record of the day, they also happen to be the best photos we have of the family at that time in spite of them being black and white.

Our wedding day was lovely; everything went like clockwork thanks to Audrey’s family. The wedding at the church was really nice and the photographer recorded the wedding guests after the ceremony and when about to being driven from the church by Bill Stubbs, the family smothered us in confetti. We had planned to go to a pub in Camden for a celebratory drink with him, giving aunt Bella and family time to get back to prepare the breakfast. While in the pub talking with Bill a couple sitting nearby could see that we were obviously a couple of newlyweds, sent the waiter over with bottle of wine and wished us all the best. That kind gesture simply added to our special day.

The family that attended the wedding on my side amounted to just four people, Auntie Alice Hinton, her son John Hinton and his wife May and their only son Wayne. It was a much larger contingent on Audrey’s side and heading the Harding family was Uncle Joe and Aunt Bella and starting with their eldest daughter Myrtle and husband Bill Stubbs, David Harding was the eldest son, Batchelor, then Norman and his wife Maureen with Peter their son and finally Joan and husband Ken Stokes. Audrey’s sisters, Betty and Shirley, as Brides maid and Dennis West, another Little Brother was my best man completed the wedding guests list.

It was a most enjoyable day with family and friends who lived in Sydney were able to share this day with us.

We both took a week off work for our wedding/honeymoon and it was to be spent at Bundeena which had been arranged by Myrtle, Audrey’s cousin for no charge and David also a cousin offered to drive us there the next day. Our first night however was spent at the Larkins house, which was the girl’s bed sitter

I recall the next day being wet when Dave arrived to take us to the cottage at Bundeena. He dropped us off and left soon after leaving Audrey and I to check out this unusual dwelling. It was rather high up, so no one overlooked the place enabling the large rear open veranda to be used as a bedroom. Unfortunately, this was a disaster, the roof leaked and other things that I won’t mention made it totally unsuitable, so we found something more suitable in Cronulla the next morning.

Our honeymoon was all too short, and we returned to John & May’s in Lidcombe who had finally found a bed sitter for us. It was once more back to everyday living and work for us both.

The lovely thing about being married meant that we were together, no more sitting out on park seats at night and having to go our separate ways after a few hours together.

This story so far is very slow in the making having ignored it for some considerable time; the date is now August 2019 and at this point looking back over 60 years, it is easy to see just how our world has changed from our very simple beginnings with very little money and a serious shortage of family backing. Today’s weddings are rather lavish compared to our humble beginning, but one thing is for sure the lack of money did not detract at all from the joy we had being together and little by little made our way forward.

Had I not met Audrey on board the Otranto I may well have ended up back in the UK and all that I have just written about so far may never have taken place. These few words only took 17 years to compile.

There is of course a great deal more to my story, but I probably won’t get around to completing it.


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