WW II, a British focus



Tom Barker passed on October 1st 2008poppy.gif - 1571 Bytes


I got off the train at Barton-on-Humber station in Lincolnshire, England . As I stepped onto the platform a porter came to me and said “good day sir, you have picked a nice day to visit us”. I enquired “what is so special about today”? To which he replied “it’s V.E. day sir, Jerry has packed it in, the war sir, it’s over, I just ‘eard it on the wireless”. I said to him “that’s nice, thanks very much, and I’m not visiting, I am hoping to stay”. Then as I was walking over to the exit from the station to hand in my ticket to the collector I thought of all the trouble I had gone to get home and came to the conclusion it had been worth it. I handed in my ticket and walked through the gate and an old man with white hair was standing near the railings and as I walked past he whispered, “Tom”. I suddenly realised he was my father.

We shook hands and he said “nice to see you home again” and that was that over, so we walked together away from the station and then he said “we moved, but I think you will like it where we live”. Then the rest of the walk was an awkward silence until we got nearer to the house and I could see my mother with her hand up to shade the sun from her eyes standing in the middle of the lane. As we got nearer I think she was overwhelmed by emotion she suddenly dashed into the house and when I walked in she was wiping away tears with her pinny (apron). I quietly walked over and we hugged for a long time. Dad said in a gruff voice “I will put the kettle on” and mum said “I’ll show you your bed room”. So we got a cup of tea organised then we sat and looked at one another a bit awkward. Mum would fish out some photos and explain who this was and so on. But I was miles away, wondering where Tenny was and the rest of those lads back in the camp.

I got visits from other members of the family during the next few days and was beginning to settle in but I was bored to tears. I would go for long walks and I didn’t know it at the time but my mum was in touch with the Red Cross and the local doctor, and I kept getting leave extensions. I was sick of Benger’s food and milk puddings and don’t eat this and that is good for you. and you must try this. Allah favours the compassionate.

One night I went to bed and during the night a storm blew up. Being asleep but hearing the noise I translated the noise in my sleep to action. I was in the back of a Morris truck hurtling through a gully and there was a lot of shelling from the hills each side of the gully but we reached the beach safely and we crouched on the beach looking out over the sea waiting to see a submarine. Then a policeman was shaking me awake. I was sitting on the seat down by the river having walked the mile between houses on each side of the road in the pouring rain, thunder and lightning. Having reached the river in my now soaking wet pyjamas, I was looking at the lights of Hessle near Hull across the river and wondering how I had got here. The cop was very nice about it “you will catch your death of cold old lad“ he said. He took off his cape and put it round my shoulders and we walked back to our house. The funny part about that was, and it did not click till later, I had actually got out of my bedroom through the window. I thought about the time when Jock and I were on a work party at a farm and we got out through a window. The mind sometimes works in mysterious ways.

Tempis fugit, it certainly does, and I found my self in a resettlement unit at a place called Oundle, not far from Peterborough. One evening a group of us went to see a film in Peterborough called "night must fall" or a similar name. It was not a bad who dunnit, the mad bloke up in the tree was slowly coming down to the ground and then creeping up behind this car containing a young couple snogging. He pulled out a big carving knife and grabbing the young bloke by the hair yanked his head back and did the slice the xmas turkey bit, then he did the same with the wench. Only trouble was I was so engrossed with the film my mates had gone on the last bus and I had missed it. So I had six or seven miles to walk to get back to the billet.

Well it was no good moaning about it and it was a nice night so I set off. I had been walking about an hour, and I always used to walk in the middle of the road, that way you get a warning if some one is going to try to jump you. There was a full moon (funny I thought there was a full moon in that picture), then when I thought I heard footsteps I whirled round but there was no one there. I thought "nerves", so I continued with my walking and there it was again. I did hear some thing, now the hair on the back of my neck was sticking up and I was trying to look out of the back of my neck but since that didn’t work I whipped round again and there was nothing there. I was about to continue walking when I spotted a shadow on the other side of the hedge. It was still and I could almost smell some one. Since I could see his silhouette then, I was in full light of the moon, so he had the advantage and the only way to change that was for me to take the initiative. So I walked rapidly and the footsteps followed just as rapidly. When I got to a five barred gate in the hedge I ran to it to leap over and face who ever was following me. But suddenly a horse stuck it’s head over the gate and snorted in my face. Well according to Pythagoreas and Old Moor’s almanac horses and cows do that some times. Later when I got back to the billet and showered and changed my under wear I went to bed and slept like a baby.

2982252 Pte Barker T.O. 1st Bn Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders, Born 23 May 1921.
Tom Barker