Jim safely came through the war years and stayed on in the RAF. But in February 22nd 1946 the Hudson aircraft, of which he was one of the three crew members, crashed north of Gemen in Westphalia, in Germany.
They were transporting five officials from the Ministry of Supply and Aircraft Production to Germany when they ran into a heavy snowstorm. The crash resulted from the wings icing up. One official was killed and the others, as well as the crew, were all seriously injured. Jim suffered a broken neck, had head injuries as well as burns on hands, back and legs. After a spell in the German hospital at Minden, he was sent back first to Princess Margaret Hospital at Swindon, then to the Burns Unit at Halton Near Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire. We were sent for and were told by the doctors that, although he would recover, he would never be more than a ‘cabbage’. How wrong they were – in spite of his terrible injuries he made a miraculous recovery. After convalescence, by the end of the year he was back in service.
In November of this year I took my first holiday in sixteen years. I went to the United States. Cecil had to stay and look after the ‘pub’ helped by Dora. Crossing the Atlantic, this time on RMS. Queen Elizabeth, I met people just returning home to America having been stranded in Europe since the start of the war in 1939. I was reminded of Louise’s problem when she visited us in 1938.
I was met in New York by Adele and spent a week there. The contrast with war ridden England was unbelievable. I was particularly astonished by the large displays of food and fruit everywhere. The cars seemed huge; eating out was now the thing to do. I travelled on to Pittsburgh by train to meet up with a few old friends. I noticed the Fred Harvey shacks along the railroad had all disappeared the trains now all having Pullman restaurant cars. Motels had sprung up everywhere and the orange groves were declining.
Leonard was still living in Western America, so after a few days in Pittsburgh I travelled on to his and Anita’s home in Tucson, Arizona. After a while with them I moved on to Los Angeles to complete my holiday, staying with Louise. When I met up with Aunt Rachel she apologised for having treated us so poorly when we first met her back in 1928. She gave me $120. She thought Uncle Bill had bequeathed his money to us, his sister’s children. Of course, he had not. I did not return home till February. It was a most enjoyable and unforgettable trip. Back at home food rationing was still in force and the contrast with everything in America seemed even greater.
Cecil had coped very well but a lot happened in my absence. Dora was getting divorced. Jim was getting married in March. Richard was not happy and wanted to the leave the marines. And on top of that it was the worst winter’s weather for many years.
I had discussed Richard’s future with Len and Anita; they said, if he would like to go to Arizona, they would help him in any way they could, maybe to get more education. There certainly appeared to be more opportunities over there. As he had been born in America of British parents he had dual nationally until he was of age when he would be required to choose one or the other.
Cecil and I were also enthusiastic about selling up and going too (Cecil was, as always, in agreement with a move). Len would sponsor us. Even Dora was keen to join us. So it was decided. The first thing was to buy Richard out of the Marines; that cost £50. He got his American citizen’s passport. We set about arranging the necessary paper work to emigrate once again, got our assets valued at £2,000. Dora got her divorce. Then on the very day, July 21st, that Cecil had an appointment at the American Embassy in London he suffered severe chest pains and so could not attend.
The stand-in locum doctor diagnosed indigestion. We informed the American Embassy and asked for a new appointment which they granted. Later Cecil was diagnosed by our regular doctor as having Angina. This was confirmed by a specialist who ordered him to stay in bed for six weeks. After a couple of days Cecil developed pneumonia. He refused to go to hospital and gradually improved. The doctor told him he would never drive the car again but in due course he sure did and even got well enough to carry on the work, but of course we had to abandon all plans to go to American. Dora signed on at St.Martins Hospital. Bath to train as a nurse.
Richard went to stay with Leonard in Arizona for a short time before moving on to California. There he met and married Amy in 1950. Now as an American citizen he was drafted into the US army and posted to Korea. He was killed in action on December 23rd 1951. In February 1952, on the 29th February (Leap year’s day) his daughter, Diane, was born.
Life went on at home. Cecil was driving again. We continued with the sale of groceries and obtained a wine licence to supplement the sale of beer and cider. The card game of cribbage became very popular in the local ‘pubs’ and teams were organised around the district into leagues. The Apple Tree Inn team invariably did well and won several ‘cups’.
We contemplated building a skittle alley which would be an added attraction. Skittles, that is the old fashioned nine pins, was traditionally always a popular local sport. Unfortunately the most advantageous place to build it was near the road side and since we knew this would not be welcomed by the local neighbours the idea was abandoned. We were able to buy two thirds of an acre of land for £100 from Mr Noakes where the quoit beds used to be. We had rented this land from him for many years at £8 per year.
Mains electricity had come to the village in 1949, some twenty five years after we first enjoyed the convenience of it in Pittsburgh. We were able to receive monocolour television in the village for the first time in 1951. Mains sewerage followed in 1953. At the Apple Tree the cribbage team was still winning.
Cecil took out additional insurance on the car to cover a Taxi Service and we started what I suppose was the beginning of ‘Pub Food’ by introducing bread and cheese snacks, on Saturday and Sunday evenings only, at three pence a portion.
In 1958 Jim, still in the RAF, was stationed in Cyprus. His wife Joan and the two girls were with him living in married quarters. A friend Valda and I spent a four week’s holiday with them there. Cecil again was left to manage the ‘pub’ which he did without difficulty but we began to think seriously of retiring.
In 1959 Jim was transferred from Cyprus back to Lyneham, Wiltshire. Since there was no accommodation there for the family they stayed with us, Linda, the elder girl going to Midsomer Norton Grammar School and Sue attending the local village school. Whilst there she passed the ‘eleven plus’ examination and following her sister to the Grammar School. There was now a third daughter, Mandy, just a few months old. RAF accommodation was eventually acquired but we sure missed them, especially Mandy, when we left.
I had by now been taught by Cecil to play chess but never was able to beat him. At this time Bingo became ‘all the rage’ and one evening a week a session was held at the village hall which was well attended,. It was provided a happy and surprisingly humorous couple of hours.