THE MEMOIRS OF JACK AARON
By the time we touched down in England it was dark and the
only place name I can remember was Aylesbury. The airfield could have been RAF
Brize Norton, but I'm not certain.
We were taken to a camp near Beaconsfield and entering the ablutions there we
again suffered yet another anti-vermin attack by puffers. Our clothes were
collected and burned and off we went to the showers with some real soap.
Back in Germany we had been issued with a green bar of soap about half the
size of a bar of Lux toilet soap, that felt gritty. This had been used for
showers, shampoos and washing your clothes. After the war I read somewhere
that the Germans made soap out of dead bodies and there were plenty of those
available. I hate to think what our German soap contained. I would rather
remain ignorant and not know!
Fresh from the showers we were each issued with a new battle dress, food, and
a hot drink. The next morning we were told to take our new battle dresses into
the adjoining field where some very pleasant WVS ladies were waiting at long
trestle tables. They were there to stitch all that was required onto our
It was a beautiful day. Oh to be back in England now that spring is here! It
was wonderful to hear the children there speaking in English which sounded
beautiful after the German we had been accustomed to hearing for so long.
Having been knocked into some sort of respectability once more and kitted out
with our new gear, which felt great, we were sent home on leave. We walked to
the railway station, which was a typical country, open-air style with the
porters trolleys lined up down the centre of the platform. I looked into the
waiting room but there was nobody there but I spotted a discarded walking
stick. "I know someone who will appreciate that back home," I thought.
Coming out of the waiting room I noticed a bit of a commotion round the
trolleys. The trolleys were loaded with rabbits for the London market. Old
habits die hard, so I selected a good sized one and slid it into my small pack
as I carried on up the platform. Looking back the trolleys looked a sorry
sight, some empty, some half empty, but still, the countryside down there was
running wild with rabbits.
The next stop was Waterloo and then we made our way into the subway for Kings
Cross. Arriving at Kings Cross we made a dash for the mainline station
platform. It was guaranteed to be standing room only by now. Getting into a
crowded train is a bit of an ordeal at anytime but with so many service
personnel and their kit bags among all the other passengers and their
belongings it wasn't easy. However we settled ourselves aboard. I was leaning
on my newly acquired walking stick and hanging onto the rail that runs across
the corridor windows, prepared to hang on in there until we reached Doncaster.
I was only too pleased to be going home. No complaints!
After a while I heard the door behind me slide open and looking round I saw an
army sergeant motioning me to take his seat just behind the door. No words
were spoken and having sat down I thought the guy must be mad, but then it hit
me - the walking stick! I was on the point of getting up and explaining but
then I thought otherwise; that man had in all good faith got up in front of
all those passengers and offered me his seat so why should I spoil his day? I
felt really guilty just the same, but I thought it was the best solution. It
restored my faith a bit in army sergeants though!
At the end of another tiresome journey it was nice to hear a good old
Yorkshire voice bawling "Doncaster" - it made me feel at home. Getting
up I looked round for the English sergeant intending to thank him for giving
up his seat but I never saw him again.
Eager to get home now, I hurried out of the station and across the bridge to
the bus station and boarded my bus. As I settled down in my seat and waited
for the bus to start, along came a young lady to whom I offered my fare. "No,
no", she said, "We don't accept money from service personnel",
which I thought was a very nice gesture.
Eventually we got moving and it was heart-warming to gaze out of the windows
and recognise familiar villages and country lanes. Next stop Knottingley.
Alighting from the bus opposite Morley Estate I suddenly realised I had come
full circle and as I proceeded over the crossing on England Lane I espied my
sister standing at the garden gate. Tragically, she had to welcome me home
with the bad news that my younger brother Herbert had been killed during the
Normandy landings and I immediately recalled how he had presented me with his
wristwatch on my departure all those years ago.
Kathleen, my future wife, had witnessed my homecoming from a distance. She
later told me she had made it her objective to meet me, which she eventually
did after passing by our house a number of times with her friend Sadie.
I asked her if she would like to go out to the pictures with me, which I think
was the normal thing between boys and girls in those days. "Yes", said
Kathleen, "I'd love to." I had obviously hit the right note because
Kathleen loved motion pictures and that's how our great romance began. After
that first date the Saturday night picture show became the highlight of our
week and our courting continued for almost the next two years until Kathleen
reached 21 years of age and agreed to marry me.
One morning, we found ourselves outside a jeweller's shop in Pontefract and
Kathleen pointed towards the window and said "Jack, I like that engagement
"Okay," I said, "we'll go in and you can try it on. If you like it
you shall have it." We got it!
After making the wedding arrangements with the Vicar I decided to leave the
organisation to Kathleen. That proved to be a good idea as she loved
organising things and she has kept me in check ever since.
At this time the council were building new council houses and so we applied
and obtained our first home just a few weeks after our marriage. Settling into
our new home was great, with all the painting, decorating and such things to
do. I had some back money and gratuity to come from my war service which went
a long way to buying much of the household equipment. I never intended
drinking it away as some of the lads did.
After just over a year of married life we decided to start a family - a joint
effort! We were rewarded with a beautiful baby girl and Kathleen couldn't wait
to find a hat to fit her! We named our lovely daughter Patricia Ann (Trisha
for short) and having got the first one out of the way so to speak, along came
another beautiful baby girl whom we christened Lynda. Our family was now
Looking back, I was glad, for want of a better word, to have experienced the
ordeal of being a prisoner of war. It made me realise that civilisation is
less than skin deep and that the basic requirements for life are simply food,
drink and shelter. Without those you simply cannot survive. However, I
certainly wouldn't like to endure the same thing again. I think I would rather
die. Being a young lad with a good immune system helped me tremendously. I
came through my ordeal physically unharmed but you cannot appreciate the
mental scars that such an experience leaves you with.