My dad’s part in Adolf’s downfall…

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A search for family photos turned up a little scrapbook of pictures of my dad’s family in the twenties and thirties. My dad featured heavily, being the youngest child with three sisters and an older brother.

I’ve seen the full size picture on display in both my auntie Margaret’s and Auntie Olwen’s house.

My dad had a life of promising full starts. He passed to go to the Grammar School in Rhyl, only for the Great Depression to intervene and prevent his dad, who was a parquet floor layer, being able to afford to buy the books and uniform. My dad had to get working and was at the start of a promising career as a store manager at George Masons, the International Grocer’s, when weeks before he was due to start the management course, a certain unpleasantness in Europe called for his attention and he was away to a Welsh Regiment of the Royal Artillery.

The family had originally lived in the courtyard in Greenfield Place, roughly where the Marks and Spencer store was built on the High Street. Ironically, my Auntie Margaret, mentioned elsewhere on the blog spent all her working life of forty years working in the Rhyl Store of Marks and Spencer!

The family had moved to the last house on the left hand side of King’s Avenue, no 24 and the picture shows my dad home on leave, pictured with his mum outside the house. Until he joined the army, my dad used to climb the wall from the entry behind Kinmel Street to get in the house, later a gate was installed in the adjoining street which allowed easier access through Oxford Grove.

His mum was already quite frail in this picture taken in 1940. As she got more frail, the doctor suggested that the family club together to buy her bread and milk, as they could not afford the required palliative medicine. It was experiences like this that made my dad a great supporter of the NHS system. He thought that if him and the lads from Rhyl were good enough to be fighting and dying for their country, it shouldn’t be down to wealth as to whether you got medical treatment.

My dad served in a Heavy Anti Aircraft Artillery Regiment, manning the 3.7in anti aircraft guns.  His role was as the predictor. This involved doing calculations with rudimentary computing instrument to determine the height and direction of the enemy aircraft and then setting the fuses of the shells to the correct setting. He always was good with maths, and he was promoted to lance and then full bombardier.

During the war he saw service defending Liverpool from the Luftwaffe. He told me of the night when a Junkers 88 was shot down in the marshes of the Dee and having been involved in the barrage they were detailed to go and collect any downed airmen. They arrived at the aircraft just before a crowd of locals who were intent on lynching any surviving members of the crew. He said one was an officer and full of himself, another was a flight sergeant, who was terrified and crying and the rest of the crew were dead. Apparently they had to fix bayonets, more to protect the prisoners than to escort them as tempers were running so high!

He went over to the continent a week after D-day and headed north through Belgium and then to shell the Germans defending Walcheren Island, which were preventing the Allies sending supplies up to the port of Antwerp. They kept up random shelling every 24 hours to ensure that the Germans on the island were worn down without sleep and with diminishing supplies. He ended the war guarding what remained of the German High Seas fleet at Wilhelmshaven. He was billeted at one pint on the Prinz Eugen, which he remembered as a rat infested hulk. Prinz Eugen was later given to the Americans and was expended in the nuclear tests at Bikini Atoll in the Pacific.

In the sixties there were a couple of years when our family seemingly ‘ never had it so good’ and we holidayed in 1967 in Ostend in Belgium. We took coach tours most days, including ones to Ghent, Bruges and Brussels. My dad was obsessed with finding a town square where he had been billeted… a faint hope in towns marked by myriad town squares, all of which looked like the next, still I enjoyed hunting with him as he was more forthcoming about his wartime exploits.

Looking at the photograph, I think there was a competition in the services to see which regiment could wear their forage cap as the jauntiest angle!

I would have recognised my dad, as he did not change in facial features in all the time I knew him!

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Where to find the Reso Trilogy Books

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If you are looking to buy a Reso Trilogy book, ake sure the publisher is JLB Learning Innovation.

If it shows Kings Hart Books, my former publisher, the company stopped trading a few years back and the book will be unavailable through them.

Probably the cheapest route to buying them is through Amazon marketplace, but nothing beats ordering them from an independent publisher.

Resolution

 

Having been vindicated by a publisher picking up the books, which for me suggested there was some value in them, and it wasn’t simply a vanity project, I decided to embark on self-publishing on a print on demand basis. I would recommend it for new writers as the big players like Ingram Spark cover all the incidental costs and help with marketing.

In theory, my books should always be available as long as you look for them under the publisher JLB Learning innovation. If you look under Kings Hart, you are likely to be disappointed.

The Reso - A Sixties Childhood

 

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Beyond the Reso : The Pavilion inspired cover

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The cover of the second Reso book, Beyond the Reso, was inspired by a sight that illuminated the Rhyl skyline throughout my youth, The Pavilion Theatre on the Promenade.

The coloured lights played on it at night, making it look like a giant ice cream which changed from strawberry, to orange to lemon to lime and blackcurrant.

I remember coming home from Auntie Betty’s home in St David’s Square late at night, my mum and Auntie Betty had been talking incessantly whilst drinking tea and eating biscuits. I’d amused myself with Prince the dog, but both of us fell asleep in the muggy atmosphere created by the gas fire.

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Eventually I was awoken and told to get my coat on for the short walk home. As we drifted into Victoria Road, the playing field of Glyndwr field shone with dew and in the distance the Pavilion radiated warm and invited light. The spectacle was such that my mum and I stopped for a few moments and she waxed lyrical on the constancy of that sight which had remained the same from her childhood. She told me that both my grandparents had been involved in building the Pavilion and I felt I had something invested in it.

It later provided shelter for what my parents would have called my ‘courting days’. Hours were spent in the shelters on the seaward side desperately trying to keep warm in a full on Irish Sea wind with only warm hearts and hot lips to keep us from freezing.

I probably had a share in its demise as well because in all my days, apart from going to see the Billy Smart’s lions and tigers camped outside, I don’t believe I ever set foot in the theatre. Despite the delights of Wyn Calvin and Prince’s Circus ‘as seen on TV’ to entice me.

There was a furore when the Pavilion was demolished in 1973. It was said that it was unsafe and the pillars that held the dome in place did show structural decay. However, when the dome fell some seventy feet to the ground without shattering there were murmurings in the town that this was civic vandalism of the worst kind.

Many went to see the demolition. I didn’t, I preferred to remember happier times cuddled up and gazing lovingly at the world’s most beautiful girlfriend.

Thanks to Ben Overton and Luke Hughes for the cover design.

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Little Triker!

I’ve searched long and hard for this photo, and was beginning to think that it was lost! It is the earliest photo of me outside on the Reso under my own steam.

I’m sitting on the trike in a corner of the garden which would forever become known as Snowy’s Corner. A couple of years after this picture was taken, after asking incessantly for a dog like my Auntie Doris’ black spaniel Micky, my dad came up with a compromise and bought me an albino rabbit. It wasn’t quite the same in my opinion but Snowy spent almost a decade in a custom built hutch made with great care by my dad out of marine quality laminated wood. The hutch had two compartments, a lobby area and a main living space. The whole front of the hutch hinged upwards to allow food, water and bedding to be replaced on a daily basis. But I digress…

That trike was my pride and joy and I can remember vividly this picture being taken.  Behind me to the left is Iris Watkins garden. Her dad grew epic rhubarb and she taught me how to dance the Twist. Over my right shoulder is Vanessa’s garden. I used to climb over the fence behind me to play with her, Debbie and Mallie.

The spooky thing is that my lifelong friend Duncan has an almost identical picture taken at the other end of the Reso!

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History does repeat itself because this is my son Luke almost thirty years later in a similar pose…

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The end of the worst year of my life

Without doubt, the year 1974/5 was the worst of my life. It started quite promisingly but descended very quickly into a series of events which still make me wince when I think of them now.

To an extent, the A level results of August 1975 gave me an opportunity to start again and I was both relieved and excited to be leaving for University.

I came home from the end of the first term to find a letter inviting me to this Presentation. I was initially reluctant to go, but my parents were very keen so I went reluctantly.

It was good to see so many friends with whom I’d grown up again. We were all scattered around the country now and  this would be the last time so many of us were gathered together. I know of two on the list of A level candidates who are no longer with us and we are poorer for their absence.

Two years below us were the O level group and there are many friends in that group as well.

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