I returned home from St Dominic’s, in July 1944, and carried on at Stepgates School.
I had lost almost a year of education, and never really caught up with my friends and spent the rest of my time at school in the lowest stream.
I found that my sister Chrissy was away, having joined the land army, my brother Bernard was in the Royal Armoured Core and fighting in France after the D Day landings. My sister Deidre had married Gordon, and was living in Scotland—he was in the Royal Air Force.
My brother David was still in a home in Essex, he had been there for several years, he had TB.
My sister Sylvia was also in a home in Surrey but was due to come home.
Apart from David, I think the reason Sylvia and I were kept in these homes, was that Fred had been ill with TB, a very infectious disease.
Fred had died a month earlier and it was then deemed safe for us to come home.
That left Iris my sister, as the only real breadwinner, she worked in the Supermarine factory, making fuel tanks for Spitfires.
Now money was short again, my brother Donald, aged 13, though still at school, was working as a delivery boy, he worked after school and Saturdays, for the local butcher, he was paid twelve shillings a week.’60p’
I started my first job almost as soon as I arrived home; also as a delivery boy, for the local grocers, I was twelve. The manager and a customer in the shop were saying, that on this day, the 28th of July, 1914, the Great War had started
I only worked Thursday and Friday after school for two hours, and Saturday for about six hours, I was paid eight shillings and sixpence, ‘45p’
I paid my mum six shillings and kept the rest,
I spent most of my wages in Pippenell Izzi’s ice cream shop; it was the best ice cream in Chertsey. Her shop was just a few doors away from our house, she was very kind to our family after my father died, and I think she was like this because of the hardship she had endured before she fled Italy.
We had a lot of Italian families in Chertsey, they came over in the twenties, after some unrest in Italy, most of my mates were from Italian families, Zubiana, Pucci, Arpino, Ballerino, Placito etc.
Seeing Chertsey Town Football Club playing was like watching the Italian national team, they all seemed very good at football.
One girl, Josephine Izzi, a cousin of the ice cream family, would walk to school with me; she was a lovely girl but had some problem with her weight, I think she knew both of us were the target of some cruel taunts, mine for being tall and skinny and hers for being quite big, and that we were in the same boat.
I left school in July 1946, my first real job lasted just three days, I cut the top of my finger off on an unguarded circular saw—no health and safety in those days—. I left that day.
My next job was at the Airscrew, the same factory my father had worked in making propellers for aircraft. Once again I had another accident, this time it could have been very serious. I was put to work on a drilling machine, and the bandage on my finger—from the previous job— had become loose, the end was caught in the rotating drill, luckily it was so loose I managed take it off my finger before I was pulled into the machine.
A week later I left that job too. Factory life was too dangerous for me, and I joined Kenneth M Gibbs, a small boatbuilding firm, in Shepperton. Mr. Gibbs designed and built his own sailing craft, most were pure racing boats built for the river Thames.
At least there were no heavy machines for me to get involved in, all the work was done by hand. Boatbuilding was a very skilled job.
I had a very good feeling about the craft we were making, they were beautiful to look at, this was the job for me, I thought.