Memories in Time. 1942-45

Leaving Belfast in late 1942 with Lily was the first time I began to form and retain memories. I can vividly remember the packed train and sitting on our suitcases in the corridor for much of the journey. My best/worse memory is crossing the Forth Bridge, wow! I was completely fascinated by this amazing structure.  I  put my head out the window to get a better view, which was fine until I got a piece of soot/ash from the engine in my eye. Tears didn’t dislodge it, Lily using the pointed tip of her hanky finally removed the irritant.  Nevertheless, it was an unpleasant experience that rather spoiled the excitement of crossing the bridge. Rosyth was bleak and dreary place in 1942, a busy wartime port providing ships for the Russian convoys. However, none of this was relevant to my young mind, I was still adjusting to my strange new surroundings, to the absents of my father, brothers and sisters. For Lily and her husband there were other more pressing problems. Consider during war, officials are always on guard, always suspicious. This was the case when Lily applied for ration books for herself and me! We had different surnames , also why was I in Scotland, why was my sister taking care of me etc. Trying to explain was difficult and time consuming, often she had to return home for more documents. The other problem was her husband, he couldn’t claim a child allowance because I wasn’t officially his dependant. So on May 31st 1943 in the Dunfirmline Sheriff’s court I was officially adopted by my sister and husband.  I became Frederick Cook, and thus began my new life as their son. Considering we lived in a time of war, my life was probably as normal as any other child my age. We didn’t remain in Rosyth long, her husband’s ship was transferred to the Mediterranean so Lily decided to move south to London. I wont go into all the details, but we did spend many nights in a back yard Anderson Shelter, we moved briefly to Padstow in Cornwall then Lowestoft. In November 1944 Lily learned she was pregnant, her husband was now in the Far East. There was only one solution, to return home to Belfast. Try to imagine, I was only three years old when I was taken away from my family, and in the meantime had become accustomed to my new life and family. Suddenly I’m back home again and meet my father, my brothers and sister whom I had long since forgotten. They however had never forgotten me and were delighted to have their little brother back. It was a confusing time for me and no one thought to explain it. My brother would say come on Eric we are going out to play, I’d say I better ask my Mum first. His reaction was wild, she’s not your Mum she’s your sister, Pop said we can go so its okay. Despite my early confusion I began to settle in well, went to school and was very happy. On the 8th May 1945 the war ended, but I neither understand or appreciate this happy event. In June that year Lily gave birth to a son he was named Robert Samuel, Roy for short. At the end of July Lily announced we were returning to England, she said her husbands parents were anxious to meet their first grandson. I did not want to go, but at six years of age I had no say. My father didn’t intercede on my behalf and so in tears I left Belfast for a second time. The arrival of her new son and meeting his grandparents caused me to be shuffled into the background. This was the beginning of my next unhappy 6 years of childhood abuse, cruelty and sexual assault. All of this lay ahead in my future.

God Bless and keep reading


About irishroverpei

Author of "Lily & Me", "The Royal Navy & Me" and Chapter XXl Armageddon. Writer, blogger and RN Submariner, antique automobile enthusiast.
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