by Derek Rosser
Anyone who has read the story of ‘A Reluctant Recruit’ will realise that my adventures as a member of the Royal Air Force had, eventually, to come to an end. For two years I had been looking forward to that happy day, the day when I would be demobilised and returned to life in Civvy Street.
Jean (My loving wife and the light of my life) was, of course, overjoyed that I had been returned to the comfort and privileges of marriage. She would, no longer, need to sport ten shillings (50p) to fund the train ticket which would carry me back to camp on Sunday evenings. She would, no longer, need to provide my favourite homemade cake by packing it into a cardboard box and relying on the auspices of the Royal Mail to get it to me in one piece.
She had, moreover, warned me that her hot water bottle was beginning to show the ravages of time and I was required to provide a nice warm spot for her feet. I had had some prior knowledge of this particular aspect of married life and was not too enthusiastic about repeating the experience. She pointed out that if her feet were cold, she could not concentrate on any other subject so I reluctantly agreed to take the place of the rubber bottle.
There was also the question of my motor bike. While it was in use to get me to and from camp, it had not needed a permanent home. Now, however, it could not be left on the road all night. The area was not as salubrious as we would have liked and there would, no doubt, be a few light fingered individuals in the neighbourhood.
In my final days in the RAF I had been invited to stay on permanently in the drawing office as a member of the civil service. We had even looked around at property in the area but had come to the conclusion that there was no way we could afford to live in Marlow or its surrounds. That was one of the many mistakes I have made in this life. We had looked at a brick built bungalow whose garden boundary was formed by the river Thames. The garden was overgrown and it was on the market for £2000 (about twenty five years gross pay when I started my apprenticeship a few years previously). It might as well have been two million for all the chance we had of buying it. A few years later we discovered (on a visit to the area) that it had been knocked down and a block of flats had been built on the site. Ah well...I’ve made quite a few more mistakes since then but none that have cost me quite as much money.
National Servicemen were protected from losing their jobs as a result of their conscription. Employers were required to keep the jobs open for the returning warriors and so it was that I took up my old position in the jig and tool drawing office and tried to settle down again into the business of ‘earning a crust’.
My return to the world of industry was something of an anti climax. For the past two years I had been used to rising before the sun appeared, in order to arrive in the ablution block while the water was at least tepid. My face still bore the scars of the many occasions when I had been unsuccessful and had been obliged to scrape at my whiskers with either no water or very cold water.
I believe I left the barrack block for the last time on a Thursday and was due to return to my drawing board on the following Monday. But...what a different experience. I climbed out of bed in leisurely fashion, completed my toilet and dressing needs slowly and thoughtfully and then descended to the dining table where Jean had prepared bacon and eggs followed by toast and marmalade. I was not even required to wash my mug and irons; just leave it to my wife.
When it was time to leave the house, I received a clinging embrace and a loving kiss. Throughout my time as a guest with the Royal Air Force I cannot remember a single occasion when Corporal Halliday or any of his many successors had sent me off to work with a kiss. A growled ‘Get yer ‘air cut’ or ‘Do up that bloody button’...yes, but a kiss? Definitely not…