Chapter 1 : Homecoming
It was Saturday the 15th Dec 1940 at about 07.30 in the morning when Lt Tony
Nash RNVR wearily trudged homewards, he was feeling dirty and tired after
traveling nearly all night from Portsmouth Harbour Station to London Waterloo,
and then on to Stratford underground station, the nearest station to his home in
East London. The underground railway platform was full of people still sleeping
on the platform or, just beginning to wake to face a new day of queuing for food
or getting ready for work.
He was wearing his Royal Naval greatcoat, against the morning chill, and
carrying his attache case and walking slowly with the aid of a stick. Dawn was
just breaking, and there were signs of a wintery sun breaking through the
clouds. The air was filled with the pungent smell of acrid smoke. He was very
tired, his face showing signs of severe strain and he walked with a pronounced
limp, as he picked his way with extreme care through the badly bombed streets of
East London. His leg hurt quite badly, and it was long overdue for a long rest.
The train had made painfully slow progress during the journey, having twice been
diverted into sidings until the raids had finished, and then the railway company
had to check the lines were still intact, or perhaps they were then stopped to
let troop trains through. He was fortunate that as an Officer he had a reserved
First Class seat. However many of the traveling servicemen were having to sleep
in the corridors loaded down with their Kit and their Rifles. Even the toilets
were full of people trying to snatch a few moments of sleep.
Sleep had been almost impossible, with blackout blinds drawn, and the acrid
smell of tobacco smoke polluting the air. The stopping and starting of the
train, together with the incessant chatter of people, plus the lack of fresh air
with the result that most travelers had given up the idea of sleep, and had
decided to play cards or just to talk the night away.
It had been still dark as he left the station and Ambulances and Fire Engines
still made their way through the rubble, their bells ringing and klaxons
sounding, as the tired crews still went about their errands of mercy, carrying
on with their grisly heartbreaking work until it was finished, and they could
then go home for a few hours hard earned rest. Tony stopped to watch two
ambulance men carry the body of an old lady from a bombed out house. A fragment
of her grey hair poking out from under the covering sheet. He stood and saluted
as a token of respect as her fragile body was loaded into a waiting ambulance.
An elderly man stood, his eyes full of tears, as he watched his deceased wife
being carried away, while a younger woman, probably his daughter, tried in vain
to console him, her arms round his shoulders. Her own tears trickling down her
The front of the house had been blown clean out, and Tony could see the pictures
on the wall of the front bedroom, some tattered curtains, and a whole host of
personal effects including a cracked chamber pot lying abandoned in the roadway.
He guessed that it would be many hours before all the fires were extinguished,
and any hint of normality returned to the City. The roads had to be kept clear
and there would be a lot of work for the bomb disposal squads before they too
In the next street attempts were being made by local people to bring some return
to normality and householders were out sweeping the street, and children looking
for bits of shrapnel that they could swop with others kids at school. People
were setting out to work on bicycles, not really knowing whether their offices
or factories would still be standing when they eventually arrived. But they all
knew full well that the following night would mean yet another night sleeping in
the underground station, or in an air raid shelter.
The George and Dragon public house bar room door was open and he could see that
the Woman’s Voluntary Services were providing the Air raid Wardens and other
rescue services with free cups of Coffee or Tea and sandwiches, as they had a
chance of a few moments break from their onerous task. A Warden just leaving the
bar shouted to him”
Come on in Navy there’s a cuppa just waiting for you. “Tony shouted. “Thanks pal
but I’m nearly home now.“
Many shops were boarded up, but still open for business as the owners
desperately tried to earn a fragile living amongst the bombed out ruins. Tony
gave a little smile as he saw one shopkeeper with a boarded up front had written
“Fuck you Adolf we are still open for Business as Usual.”
Farther on a small queue of housewives, were waiting for a local greengrocer to
open, as they chatted amongst themselves. One woman seeing him shouted “Up the
Navy .”and they all joined in to give him a small cheer as he limped past them
on his way home.
They made Tony feel a little guilty, as he thought to himself, that they were
the real heroes, these were the people, the ordinary people who carried on day
after day with little food and looking after their families, doing vital war
work, and doing all the things that normal human beings did on a daily basis
despite the best efforts of the Luftwaffe. Germany he thought could never ever
beat these people.
Tony had just left Haslar Royal Naval Hospital at Gosport the previous day. It
had been a long painful few months as he recovered in Haslar Hospital from his
injuries, sustained on the 4th June when he had made his last return from the
Dunkirk beaches. His life had been in the balance for over a month, the doctors
and his own indomitable spirit had survived in the end, and he had made a long
slow recovery from his horrific injuries. Now he had been given sick leave until
the New Year. Now all he wanted was to get home, see his wife Sarah and catch up
on some sleep, and when he woke, to go and have a pint of Brown and Mild beer
with his father at his local.
Tony had been seconded from the battleship HMS Howe and given command of the
thirty year old stern Paddle Steamer which was manned by naval volunteers from
local shore bases, and ex navy pensioner volunteers to meet the emergency. The
ship had no guns except for the arms brought aboard by the army survivors, many
of whom were also killed or injured by the raiding aircraft. The final trip when
he had been injured, had been the third time they had visited the Dunkirk
beaches. It was to have been the last trip they could make anyway, as the
Germans had almost reached the beaches when they had left this last time.
The intermittent fire from soldiers Rifles and Bren Guns had done little to
deter the Luftwaffe on their mission of assassination. It had been the
unexpected arrival of an RAF Hurricane fighter plane which had driven off the
attacking JU88 and probably saved them from further casualties or being sunk.
The Fairy Queen had just made it back to port, before she gently settled down
alongside the jetty. But Tony had not been conscious, as he too was carried
ashore to a waiting ambulance, and then rushed to a local hospital as the
doctors battled through the night to save his life. It was only later after he
had been transferred to a Naval Hospital that he was told how he had been
cheered ashore by the grateful soldiers, whose lives he had helped to save.
It was three weeks later when he really regained full consciousness for the
first time, surfacing from the unending waves of pain. Then he had been told
that he had been awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for gallantry. He was
one of several serviceman, who had received awards from the Surgeon Admiral
representing the King. Gradually with the help of the dedicated nursing staff,
his own dogged determination, and the skill of the overworked physiotherapists
that he had gradually recovered to something nearing full fitness.
The Medical Board had told him that it was highly possible that he would be
discharged from the Navy on a medical pension, but only time would tell, and
much depended on how well he recovered from his injuries. His parents had
visited him in hospital every week, and he had received two very brief fleeting
visits from his wife Sarah, who apologised for the shortness of her visits, but
she use the excuse that she was working in a munitions factory on war work.
However there seemed to be a coolness between his parents and Sarah, which the
more he thought about it caused him some concern.
Sarah and he had been an item virtually since their early school days. They had
grown up together gone to school together, and it seemed ordained that they
should eventually marry. Which they did three months before the outbreak of
hostilities. Tony had been a Sub Lieutenant in the peacetime RNVR and had been
called to full time service in September 1939. He had been promoted to
Lieutenant some two months after his call up.
His home in Stratford was one of a typical terraced house with an outside
toilet, and open coal fires. They had gas for cooking and some heating, and his
father had paid for Electricity to be put in just before the war started.
On arriving home he opened the front door with his key, and let himself in. His
mother was working away in the kitchen and when she heard the kitchen door open.
She thought it was his father, and she said “About time you roused yourself Fred
Nash or you will be late for work again.”
Tony said quietly “Hello Mum.“
His mother gave a little shriek, as she turned and hugged him. His father
entering the kitchen said facetiously.
“There you see Hilda Nash, I’ve caught you at long last in the arms of a bloody
sailor after all these years.” Tony shook hands with his Dad and his mother now
in tears, turned to pour him a cup of tea.
Tony felt exhausted and he slumped in an armchair, his leg throbbed, and he knew
that the physical weakness was partially caused by the weeks he had lain in bed.
The doctor had told him that if he took care, he would gradually get his muscle
tone back. He was told to rest, and take moderate exercise when he felt like it.
He knew full well that he was some way from full fitness and that he had only
been allowed home because of the extreme pressure on beds. The hospitals were
still dealing with a lot of long term wounded from Dunkirk, and casualties from
the Battle of Britain air attacks, and were glad to release beds to cater for
the ever increasing numbers of incoming casualties from the war.
By the time his mother had poured his tea he was fast asleep. His father looked
down at his sleeping son and said quietly.
”Just let him sleep mother, the poor bastard has earned it“
“How about Sarah?” his mother asked.
“The lad will be able to deal with it better when he has slept for a while.” His
father said as he picked up his lunch bag and left for his work in the nearby
It was about midday when there was a loud banging on the front door. As his
mother opened it a very pregnant and a hostile Sarah Nash, Tonys’ wife burst
through the door.
“Where is he? I know he is here because he has been seen. I bet you have had a
lovely time slagging me off.”
“He has been asleep since he came.” His mother told her.
As Sarah burst through the kitchen door, she saw her husband lying in the chair
still with his overcoat on, just wakening from his deep sleep by his wife’s
As he saw Sarah he gave a big smile which turned to wonder, and then to a
mixture of amazement and anger as he saw her condition.
“Yes you can talk I bet you have been putting it about, while you have been
away. So OK I had a bit on the side and I slipped up.”
Sarah stopped talking as Tony stood up, for the first time showing signs of
fear, as she saw the anger on his face.
“I have been totally faithful to you all the time I have been away.” Tony said
“ I have been tempted then I thought of you, and I have never once stepped out
of line once.”
“That’ a big lie.” Sarah said with a big sneer on her face.
Tony was incensed as he raised his hand as though to strike her. His mother
“So that is why you were wearing that loose coat when you came to visit me, and
would not take it off?”
“Well if you had died, as they said you might, there would have been no problem
for me - would there?”
“What an evil thing to say, you bitch“ His mother said as she now joined in the
“Get out of thus house NOW.” His mother shouted, as she grabbed a rolling pin
from the draining board.
Sarah tuned and almost ran out of the house, in tears herself.
Tony slumped back in the chair. “Why didn’t you tell me mother?” He asked .
“You were ill, and we did not want to cause you any distress when you regained
consciousness, and we thought it was a matter for the two of you to sort out.”
“Who is the father?”
“I am told that he is a worker from the docks. He is still living with his wife
as far as I know.” His mother said.
It was that evening that Tony now having found out the name of Sarah’s lover
from his father and decided to call on to ensure that she knew about her
husbands affair with Sarah.
“I don’t particularly want to sort him out, I want to make sure that his wife
knows what a lying cheating bastard she is married to.” Tony told his father.
His father would not let Tony go on his own, but insisted on going with him. The
house was not far, and Tony knocked on the door. A very young looking blonde
haired lady came to the door. Tony noticed that she had a bruise on her cheek
which had been adeptly reduced by some clever make-up, and Tony’s father asked
“Are you Mrs. Bridges, the husband of Reg Bridges who works on number three
She looked very hesitant as she answered.
“Why is he hurt?”
Tony replied. “No not yet.”
“I gather he is not here?” Tony asked.
“No he is working overtime.”
“Yes he may be, but not at the docks.? Tonys father said caustically.
Tony then said. “ I came home today, and found out that my wife is about eight
months pregnant, and your husband is the father.”
She did not look as shocked as Tony thought she ought to be.
“You had better come in and we can discuss this in private.” She said quietly.
At the same time looking around to see if any of the neighbours were listening.
They sat down and for about five minutes. Tony’s father told her exactly what he
knew, and he said.
“ I know for a fact that he is not working overtime tonight. So we can guess
where he is now can’t we?”
Eventually his wife looked up at them, her eyes were full of tears.
“I am so sorry. It is not the first time this has happened. Can we go and get
the proof, and then we will know what to do?”
Tony said quietly. ”I am sorry Mrs. Bridges I don’t want to cause any trouble
for you, but I do think that you should know what is happening. In a way I am
glad that I found out what my wife is like before we started a family. It has
been a big shock for me to come home and find this out for myself.”
As they walked to Sarah’s home Mrs. Bridges turned to Tony and his father and
“Please call me Tina.”
Tony said “OK but only if you call me Tony “
When they arrived at the house Tony opened the front door with his own personal
key, as it was where he and Sarah had been living with her mother, since they
had first married. Sarah’s mother stood up in alarm. as they walked in the
house. Tony took no notice of her, as he climbed the stairs slowly to the
bedroom slightly handicapped by his injuries, where as they had expected Tina
found her husband in bed with Sarah. Tony ignored Sarah and her lover, as he
opened the wardrobe, and started removing his personal clothes and belongings.
Sarah sat up in alarm, as Tony‘s father and her lovers wife confronted them.
Tina started raving at her husband. Sarah said. “This is the end - we are
finished, and you don’t lay a finger on me. ”You bloody hypocrite I bet you have
been having it away every night with some doxy or another.”
Tony looked at his wife. “I have never slept with another woman in my life, I
have always been faithful to you despite many temptations.”
Sarah looked up at him.” I don’t believe you.”
Tony looked at her.” I loved you, but now this is the end.”
Reg Bridges sat up in bed and opened his mouth. Tony just looked at him.
”One word and I ram my fist down your throat.”
Tina grabbed a hairbrush and started hitting her husband about the head. Being
naked he was at an obvious disadvantage , He raised his hand to strike Tina, but
Tony intervened and hit him right on the point of his jaw. He flopped back in
the bed not moving.
Tina looked at Sarah. She was sobbing as she spoke. “This is not the first time
he has done this, but now he is all yours I will put his clothes in the outside
Loo for him to fetch.”
Sarah and her mother by now were all in tears for different reasons. The whole
incident only took about four minutes. Meanwhile Tony had finished packing his
meagre possessions, and his father took his case while Tony picked up his guitar
where it was leaning in the corner.
Tony caught hold of Tina’s arm and said. “Come on Tina we have finished here.”
Tina was quiet as they walked home, then she turned to Tony and asked quietly.
“Could I ask you a favour Tony please? Do you think you could stay with me
tonight in case he comes home and he is violent towards me again? “
Tonys father said I have another better idea. “I have got a complete set of
locks at home and we can soon change all your locks for you. I will nip home and
Tony agreed anyway to stay with her, but he pointed out. “I am still a bit
handicapped with a wonky knee, but I will certainly stay and keep you
Next Chapter 2
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