• Vol. 02
  • Chapter 11

The Calm Before The Storm

I remember that summer, in 1937, when Father had driven us to Westcliff-on-Sea for the day. As early September had approached, the temperature had already dropped, but the school holidays weren’t quite over and Father wanted to make the most of the family time we had left.

We had lived in the London Borough of Waltham Forest for the whole of my life and, on special occasions, travelled the forty miles to Westcliff-on-Sea to get away from the hustle and the bustle of growing city life.

That particular Sunday, we were celebrating my twelfth birthday and we collected pretty, broken shells, and tried to catch crabs. Later on, with a metal bucket full of sea gems, we watched all the boats come in with the workers from Sheerness - getting ready to go back to work in the local factories. One man played classical music on an acoustic guitar with ease, while the other men in the boat continued talking and smoking.

The first groups of chattering men disembarked – some in suits and others in scruffy work attire.

My brother, Robert, was only ten years old at the time and said he wanted to take a boat to work like a Viking. Mother smiled and reminded him that he was lucky that our family had a car, because seasickness wasn’t very nice.


The Calm Before The Storm

Mother and I cuddled up on a blanket on the firm, stony sand and listened to the guitar music drifting through the air. Robert and Father had gone to examine the boats and as the sun went down three more of them were approaching.

I remember that birthday fondly because it was so exciting to be awake and away from home so late, without a care in the world; surrounded by the simplicity of family life.

I had no idea that it would be our last relaxed family vacation.
Robert and I were evacuated off to the beach a year and a half later, but it was far away from Waltham Forest – to a beach on the tip of Cornwall, in a place aptly named ‘Land’s End’. It felt like the end of the world with Mother and Father so far away. It didn’t feel like a vacation at all. But, Father had suddenly insisted Robert and I be sent to school there, a few months prior to the announcement of the War. My mother cried when we were sent away, but Father read the papers and said we had to prepare for the coming storm.

In 1939, a few months after Robert and I had been sent away to school, my father left England for France on a boat just after the outbreak of World War II. Mother told us he needed to go because it was his duty.

I worried that he would suffer the seasickness that Mother had told us about when we had been on holiday in Westcliff.

We never saw him again.