Life Stories

Times are changing, ways of life are being lost, and stories too. I can help record special times and life-changing experiences for your (or a loved one’s) life: Wartime experiences? National Service? A lifetime of living in a village? An unusual career? The dances? Years spent volunteering? A special friendship? Time spent abroad?

Too often I hear people say, ‘I wish we’d listened to grandad more’, ‘Nana had stories to tell …’  often followed by ‘I wish we’d listened more carefully.’

I will sit and listen to you or your loved one tell their stories. I’ve not heard them before, and I am endlessly fascinated. I will ask questions, look at old photographs and take notes. Then I will write up the story and include photographs. I will work on the story with the storyteller to get it right, and can produce it as a PDF booklet. Other formats are possible at extra cost – we can discuss your needs and work together to produce something the family can be proud of and preserve precious stories for future generations!

I would like to thank Tom, and his family, for allowing me to share some excerpts (below) from his stories about the war. It was a real pleasure to listen to him reminisce and to create a memoire for Tom and his family to keep.

 

Tom Barker’s War, 1943-47

"Tom had just turned 15 when the war began in 1939. At the end of their garden there was a hole in the fence that opened into the stadium in Cockerton. This was where the soldiers were brought to be deloused – many of them had walked the 18 miles from Brancepeth Castle. Tom used to creep through the fence and steal the vests and pants and sell them – there were a lot of people scratching across Cockerton after that! A local scout master encouraged Tom to join the Navy and he took the bus one day to Middlesbrough where he signed on as a boy seaman with the Merchant Navy.

At around this time Tom got a job working for Chris Binks driving a tractor at Walworth Castle. This was a job he enjoyed even if the tractor didn’t go terribly well and his feet hurt because the second hand boots his mum had managed to buy for him were too big and as hard as nails. He tried soaking them in oil and all sorts but nothing worked – the toes turned up and took the skin off his feet no matter how much straw he packed them with!

Then, on his 18th birthday, his boss walked out into the field where Tom was ploughing to have a word. He was being conscripted but, because he worked on the land, he didn’t have to go if he didn’t want to. But Tom was keen to do his bit so, 1942 he quit his job, volunteered to join the Navy and so began five years packed with danger and incident."

"On the voyage out the ship was also carrying a lot of top brass and Rear Admiral Denny asked Tom if he fancied “a nice quiet life” – he was looking for a Batman but Tom turned him down."

"At this time, Tom remembers his dad visiting him. He worked in the War Office as one of Churchill’s dispatch riders and so he always knew where Tom was when he had leave. Indeed, he was probably one of the few people who did know where people were or were about to be sent!"

"Tom joined the Victorious, an aircraft carrier, as a fire fighter. Life was spent on deck waiting for planes to take off or land. It was somewhere to sit and sunbathe – although Tom kept his jacket on: redheads and hot sun don’t go well together!"

"Tom’s last ship was a repair carrier based in Sidney harbour. Every day they collected 20 or so brand-new planes and engines, took them out to sea and dumped them. These were all so new they were still wrapped in tarpaulins and waxed covers. Over 420 were dumped rather than take them back to the US – it still seems very shocking. Men cracked the compasses to drain off the fluid which they’d drink."

"It was 1947 by the time Tom got home and was demobbed."