Friday, 5 June 2009

Wegberg, Germany, continued

This is an aerial view of the hospital, with a bit of spillage on the bottom left corner. Such a wonderful place to work in.

One of the best memories is the cafeteria which I always loved at the morning and afternoon tea breaks. I am re-living the atmosphere of that superb café right now, with the welcoming smell of freshly roasted coffee permeating the air as one approached it. I have never tasted better coffee since and it's amazing how the aroma lingers in my memory so strongly. A lovely, lovely haven of delight.

I have now been promoted to senior aircraftsman,(SAC) and am now the proud possessor of a tri-bladed propeller insignia on each arm. I achieved this giddy height in rank by passing the RAF education tests after some evening classes. I found the tests a doddle and the reward for bothering to take them was worthwhile.

I'm looking forward to seeing Joan again when I arrive in Hereford. I took the train to the Hook of Holland and enjoyed a nice meal on the train - which was such a delight. The trains of those days in Holland and Germany put most of the English trains to shame.

Eventually arrived at Hereford rail station and dear little Joannie was waiting for me on the platform. She waves to me as I'm leaning out of the window and it is so good to see her again.

I spend four days with her. We didn't go dancing but did go to the pictures one evening. I recall the film: "Susan Slept Here", with Debbie Reynolds. I say I recall the film, but I do not remember much about it except for the theme song: "Hold my Hand", sung by Don Cornell. I would have to say that this would be "our song" during my stay in Hereford. Most of the time we were in the darkness of this Hereford cinema was spent in kissing or with Joan's head snuggled on my chest with my arm around her shoulder.

We walked in the countryside during the daytime; there are some beautiful gentle hills around the city. A stroll along the riverside, or a visit to the lovely cathedral, or wandering around the city shops and cafés were other simple joys of life then.

The hours and days just flew by and soon it was time to say a touchingly tearful "goodbye" again. Joan watched as the train pulled out of the station, waving with one hand and dabbing a handkerchief to her eyes with the other. She looked rather waif-like standing there in a thin floral dress which was being fluttered by the breeze. I can see her still, although over 50 years have flown by now.

On the train journey from the Hook of Holland through to Munchen Gladbach we were boarded by German police as we came to the border crossing. I had to open my suitcase and the contents were thoroughly searched, looking for contraband coffee and tea. There was quite a black market in such stuff then; what else they may have been searching for I know not. Later in my life I would be making this journey again, but as a civilian on a nostalgic trip back to see Wegberg and my journey would be interrupted by armed border guards ... but that's another story!

Back in Wegberg I resumed my usual duties and was soon back in the swing of things. I entered various sporting events, including cross-country races and some track events. I cannot lay claim to any great achievements in these sports but I enjoyed the taking part. I could never get the "pace" right in track events, especially the mile race. I was too keen in the early stages, often in front for a couple of laps, and then paying the price and running out of puff in the last lap. I didn't mind not winning; it kept me fit and happy.

I also used the gym quite frequently and did a bit of boxing training. There was a good light-heavyweight airman (cannot remember his name) and he represented the RAF in boxing events. He asked me one evening if I would have a couple of rounds sparring with him; I agreed. The first two minutes or so went very well, with me dancing around the ring and him just landing a few blows to the head - but not with any real force.

After a breather of a minute or so we carried on sparring when he suddenly unleashed a powerful right-hand punch just below my heart: wham! My knees buckled and all the breath was shocked out of my body. I dropped to the canvas, gasping for breath; my sparring partner crouched down anxiously trying to help me off the floor. He was repeatedly saying "I'm so sorry ... so sorry..." I soon recovered but felt quite weak still. Had a glass of water and was fully OK, but that was the last time I ever went back in the ring with him. He was a jolly good boxer and the lack of a regular sparring partner was difficult for him and the temptation to "let fly" with a good body-shot was too much for him to ignore. Oh well, never mind - no harm done!

My boss, Warrant Officer Robinson, said that I should consider applying for another Hereford course in administration. He said it would be a further step up the promotion ladder should I pass it. Why not, I thought; nothing to lose - so I applied. It would also mean that I would have more time to spend with Joan again and that had to be an added bonus. The future was looking good.

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