It took heading for war to be accepted

WARTIME American soldiers were warned that it would take so long to break down the reserved nature of the English people that the war would be over before they got round to it. A statement that reminded me of my morning journey to work through the 1930s.

WARTIME American soldiers were warned that it would take so long to break down the reserved nature of the English people that the war would be over before they got round to it.

A statement that reminded me of my morning journey to work through the 1930s.

Each morning the same men occupied the same seats on the 7.10am to Fenchurch Street, as they had since the line was owned by the London Southend and Tilbury Railway Company.

Mr Daily News, elderly with gleaming spectacles was proud of his newspaper, founded by Charles Dickens and supporting the Liberal Party.


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Mr Daily Chronicle, my father, with rimless clip-on glasses and a stiff, tight collar garrotting an active Adam's apple, applauded his newspaper's Liberal views.

Mr Daily Herald, a sharp-faced printer with jerking gestures, had read his newspaper since its initiation by his trade union and supported the Labour Party.

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Mr Morning Post, an old soldier raucously regimental, white bushy eyebrows and a waxed pointed moustache, regarded unions as an anathema.

"Union?" he would bellow. "Ruination of Britain! Strikes? Mutiny, dammit! Hang 'em three a day!"

Mr Daily Sketch was a sombre suited civil servant with a robust conception of his importance. He was a storekeeper at the Passport Office.

I was introduced on my first day at work, and considered to be a child to speak only when spoken to.

Communication was conducted as if I was among those not present. "What are you putting him to?" they enquired.

"He's going to work along of me," replied Dad.

"Does he like the idea?"

"He's got no option."

"What's wrong with his neck?

"He's got a boil on it."

This third party mode continued for years while I listened to Mr Daily News and my father quoting Liberalisms from the editorials of their papers.

Mr Daily Herald preached trade unionism with evangelistic fervour while the old soldier and Mr Daily Sketch disagreed with them all.

They never used Christian names, but, oddly enough they were firm friends.

They swapped plants, helped each other to build wireless sets, lent each other tools and shared each other's joys and griefs.

I was not fully accepted until I was conscripted into the Army.

While serving overseas I received a parcel from home. Everything was in short supply, especially cigarettes.

Among the family gifts was a parcel on which Dad had written: "From the chaps in the train."

It contained 60 self-sacrificed cigarettes of assorted brands and warm greetings signed by them all.

I was accepted. It had taken a war.

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