I have been playing football at school, and although I’m not very good at it I really like it. I have been given a pair of second-hand football boots; they are a bit tight but much better than playing in plimsole’s. The boots have sparked in me a keen interest in the game, and like any other hobby or interest that I have ever been involved in, it has taken over all my spare time.
Most evenings I am up the ‘rec. We don’t play a proper game though, there is only one goal with two goal keepers, and there are no proper teams, it is every man for himself. If you score a goal you have to go in goal for a while. It is fast and furious. We all love it, but of course, there are a few injuries with so many players on the field—sometimes more the thirty! It is especially dangerous for the kids as some of the players are grown men. Like Bobby Slade, he is really good, and a man called Ballerina—I can’t recall his first name but another good player. They called themselves ‘The Bell Corner Rangers’. I think their motto was; ‘Move over mate as I’m not about to’.
I was always being knocked over and my first injury was a chipped bone in my wrist, it was a bit painful, but I could carry on playing. The next time I was hurt it was more serious. The heavy, wet leather ball, that we had in those days, hit me in my stomach. It almost knocked me out. This time I had to go home, it was very painful, and I felt as if I might faint.
I never told mum about it,—she would have stopped me going up the ‘rec. But I couldn’t play for a while, so I would just watch the game. The pain faded after a couple of days but was then followed by something which made me shout out loud—I was peeing blood. Mum came running up the stairs to see what I was shouting about. I pointed at the lavatory bowl full of blood. She virtually carried me downstairs, and then all the way along to Pips, her husband Dominic offered to take me up to the Doctor on his bike.
The Doctor took one look and took us both up to St Peters hospital. I was put in ward FLG, it had some old men in the beds who looked very poorly. The one in the bed next to me was making some dreadful noises as if he couldn’t breathe properly. The next morning his bed was empty. A young nursing assistant who was looking after me—she was Teddy Wades sister by the way—She told me that I should never have been put in this ward. I think the normal wards were so full of wounded soldiers, this was the only spare bed.
After a couple of days, I was put into ward 14, it was full of soldiers and one other young boy. His name was Ledger, he also came from Chertsey. I think he had a diseased hip and had been in hospital for quite a while. I never found out what was wrong with me, but I was there for nearly two months.
The soldiers had so many different wounds, some were very serious. As we were the only kids, we were treated very well by both the nurses and the soldiers. It was like a holiday, apart from the foul-tasting green medicine that I had to take three or four times a day. There were no lessons of course, but I learnt how to play cards and draughts from the soldiers, and even some card tricks.
I was there over Christmas, and despite the horrible injuries some of the soldiers had, it was such a happy day. For Christmas dinner I had turkey for the first time, they told me it was the leg, but it turned out to be the skinny bit near the foot. They did laugh when they watched me trying to eat it, but I was given some nice turkey afterwards. They were joking all the time, when the presents were shared out, a man with all his hair burnt off was given a comb and some Brylcreem. Someone with no teeth had a toothbrush and a tube of SR. We had a lovely time there, and as I was getting better, I was taken to the hospital cinema. I saw some ENSA shows and the latest films, I was having such a nice time I never wanted to go home. In January I was transferred to a home for frail children, I would be there until July